Emergency Contraception

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What is it? How does it work?

Emergency Contraception stops a pregnancy if used within 5 days after unprotected sex. There are three different types of emergency contraception: copper IUD, ella, and levonorgestrel pill/s (Plan B, Next Choice).

The copper IUD works to prevent pregnancy by slowing down sperm. Sperm reeeally don’t like copper and this prevents them from swimming up to reach an egg for fertilization. The copper IUD also prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years once it is inserted.

Ella is a pill that blocks the hormones your body needs to conceive. Ella should not be taken if you’re using another method of hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, ring, or shot). Ella will interfere with your hormonal birth control’s effectiveness and vice versa. Also, if you need to take emergency contraception a second time before you get your period and you’ve already used ella, be sure to use ella again. Ella will make levonorgestrel pills less effective.

Levonorgestrel pills contain the same hormones as birth control pills, but have a much higher dose. They work to thicken the cervical mucus and prevent an egg from being released for fertilization.

How effective is it?

The copper IUD lowers your chances of getting pregnant by 99.9% if inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex. Ella lowers your changes of pregnancy by 85% if used within 5 days of unprotected sex. Finally, levonorgestrel pills reduce the chance of pregnancy by 75-89% if used within 3 days after unprotected sex. Levonorgestrel pills can be effective up to 5 days but they reduce in effectiveness with each day. The copper IUD and ella do not decrease in effectiveness for up to 5 days after unprotected sex.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects of the copper IUD are an increase in “period symptoms” (heavier flow, more cramps) and spotting in between periods. Ella typically does not have side effects, but may cause a change in your next period (lighter, heavier, later, earlier, etc.) Occasionally, it can cause an upset stomach. Levonorgestrel pills have similar side effects to birth control pills (nausea, tender breasts, dizziness) and may also cause a change in your next period.

Does it protect me against sexually transmitted infections?

No, unfortunately none of the emergency contraception methods protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Birth ControlAmy Fan