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Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life. Fortunately, emergency contraception is available when there is a concern about the possibility of pregnancy. Some people don’t know what emergency contraceptive is, when to use it, or how it works. Read to learn the answers to common questions about emergency contraception.

What is Emergency Contraceptive?

Emergency contraceptive is a method to aid in preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is also frequently referred to as “the morning-after pill” or “plan B.”

Do I Need Emergency Contraception?

There are situations that occur when you may wonder if you need emergency contraception. Some of the cases that may be an appropriate time to use emergency contraception would be:

  • You had unprotected sex
  • You have concerns that your regular contraceptive or birth control method may have failed
  • Sexual assault
  • You made a mistake with your normal birth control method
  • The condom broke or slipped off

How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

There are a couple of different types of emergency contraception. The most popular emergency contraceptive is the morning-after pill. Depending on the type of pill, it needs to be taken within three days to five days of having unprotected sex. They work best if taken sooner rather than later.

There are two types of morning-after pills. One uses ulipristal acetate to help prevent pregnancy and requires a prescription. The other uses levonorgestrel and is available without a prescription at many drug stores. Common brand names include Plan B, Take Action, My Way, Option 2, and more.

The other emergency contraception method is getting a certain type of intrauterine device (IUD) within five days of having unprotected sex. This requires seeing your gynecological healthcare provider and it is not always the right option for everyone.

Is the Morning After Pill Safe?

Many of the morning-after pills have been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and are considered safe. You can use the morning-after pill multiple times but it should not be your regular method of birth control.