What is EC?

Emergency contraception (sometimes called EC or “the morning-after pill”) works after sex to stop a pregnancy before it starts.

You have up to 5 days (or 120 hours) to use EC after unprotected sex.

EC is not the same thing as the abortion pill; if you’re already pregnant, EC will not work.

There are five brands of EC available in the US:

Plan B One-Step and Next Choice One Dose are one pill that you take as soon as possible after sex.

Next Choice and Levonorgestrel Tablets are two pills that you can take together as soon as possible after sex.

ella is one pill that you take within 5 days of sex. ella is more effective than the other plans (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, etc.), especially on the 4th or 5th day after sex.

How Do I Get EC?

One brand of emergency contraception, Plan B One-Step, is now available without age restrictions. That means anyone, male or female, can buy Plan B One-Step off the shelf without having to show ID. Other brands (like Next Choice One Dose, My Way, and Levonorgestrel Tablets) are still available only behind the counter, and you need a prescription if you are 16 or younger. Anyone who is 17 or older (both females AND males) can get buy these brands without prescription at the pharmacy counter. If someone refuses to sell it to you, let us know about it.

If you want to use ella, you need a prescription no matter how old you are.

This EC Locator will help you find clinics and pharmacies with EC in your neighborhood.

Remember that timing is critical. Figure out where you can get EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex – within 24 hours and up to 3 days is ideal.

How Much Does EC cost?

EC can be expensive – anywhere from $35 to $60 (or more) if you have to pay for it yourself at a pharmacy. Try your local Planned Parenthood or teen clinic to see if they can provide EC to you at a reduced cost (or even for free) or check here for other suggestions for finding lower-cost pills.

Do My Parents Have to Know?

No – there is no law requiring your parents be notified before you get birth control. If you’re concerned about privacy, you should call the doctor or clinic first and ask if you can get EC confidentially.

How Do I Use EC?

If you use a kind of EC that's just one pill (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One-Dose or ella), you take the pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If you use a brand that has two pills (Next Choice or Levonorgestrel Tablets), take both pills together as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that EC can have some minor side effects like nausea, breast tenderness, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, temporarily irregular menstrual periods, or fatigue.

EC will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections so be sure to use condoms if you are concerned about STDs.

If you do not get your next period after taking EC, be sure to see your doctor.

Can I Use EC as My Regular Method of Birth Control?

EC is perfectly safe, but it isn’t a birth control method you should rely on all the time—there are much more effective methods out there. Method Match is a great online tool for picking the best method for you.