Emergency birth control is available to women but many do not know it exists. This
treatment must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent an
unplanned pregnancy. The following information will address questions regarding how and
when Emergency Birth Control can be used. Also included are important facts which may help
you decide whether or not this is the best option for you.
There really is no such thing as a single "morning after pill." Emergency
Birth Control is actually a series of birth control pills taken within 72 hours after
unprotected sex. If there is any risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex, after a condom
breaks, or in cases of rape or sexual assault, then you might want to speak to your doctor
about Emergency Birth Control. This birth control method requires a woman to take one dose
of birth control pills and a second dose twelve hours later. Taking this increased amount
of birth control pills stops fertilization of the egg so that the woman does not become
pregnant. Emergency birth control is not the same thing as the "abortion pill,"
or RU486, which has just been approved for sale in the United States.
The FDA ruled in February 1997 that, if taken according to instructions, using oral
contraceptives as emergency birth control is safe and effective in preventing pregnancy
after unprotected sex. Contact your health care provider in order to discuss the treatment
and any questions or concerns you may have.
You should know at what point in your menstrual cycle unprotected sexual intercourse
occurred. If the unprotected sex occurred two weeks after the first day of your most
recent period, you are at a great risk for pregnancy. You should take a urine pregnancy
test to make sure that you are not already pregnant. If you discover that you are
pregnant, do not use the Emergency Birth Control. Contact your health care provider in
order to discuss the treatment and any questions or concerns you may have.
Most combination (estrogen and progesterone) birth control pills can be used (Ovral,
Levien, Lo--ovral, Nordette, Tri Levlen, Triphasil).
Take a urine pregnancy test to make sure that you are not already pregnant. If you
discover that you are pregnant, do not use the Emergency Birth Control method. If you are
not pregnant and decide to use this method, follow the instructions below after discussing
them with your health care provider. The following is a list of oral contraceptives which
the FDA have found to be effective as emergency contraception. The pills are taken in two
doses, twelve hours apart.
* Take pills from the first three weeks of the birth control packet. ** Take pills from
the third week of the birth control packet (pills are yellow). Be certain to see your
health care provider in conjunction with using this series of pills.
First Dose: Swallow the pills in the first dose no later than 72 hours - three days -
after having unprotected sex. The treatment is most effective if the first does is taken
immediately after unprotected sex.
In order to prevent nausea, you may want to eat saltines or soda crackers while taking
If you vomit within three hours of taking the first dose, take the second dose
Second Dose: Swallow the second dose 12 hours after taking the first dose.
If you vomit after taking the second dose, call your healthcare provider immediately.
Yes. The Food and Drug Administration has approved two prescription medications for use
as emergency contraception: Preven (approved 09/01/98) and Plan B (approved 07/28/99).
Contact your health care provider to obtain a prescription or infomation about these
Women have complained of nausea and vomiting after starting the "Morning After
Pill". Your health care provider can prescribe medication to help control the nausea.
Despite these symptoms, it is very important that you complete the entire treatment to
ensure that the treatment is successful. If the nausea becomes unbearable, contact your
health care provider.
Using this emergency birth control method may also delay the start of your next period.
Not all women experience this side effect.
After taking the pills, be sure to use another form of contraception (condoms plus a
spermicide is best) if you have vaginal intercourse before your next period. If your
regular form of birth control is the pill, you should start a new pack on the first Sunday
of your next period.
Your regular period should start at about the expected time. Although the treatment
could delay the menstrual cycle, you should get a regular period. If you do not get a
regular period, contact your health care provider.
There is no data on the effects of increased amounts of hormones on a fetus. Some women
opt to terminate the pregnancy.
This form of emergency birth control is available to most women. If you can use birth
control pills as a regular form of birth control, then you can probably use this emergency
method also. If you think that you may want to consider this contraceptive, your health
care provider can give you a prescription.
Women with breast cancer, high blood pressure, who are already pregnant, or have had
blood clots should not use this method. Your health care provider can help you choose an
alternative method if you have any of these medical conditions.
All women should remember that this is a last resort contraceptive. Consider all your
options and plan a regular contraceptive method with your physician.
Despite the fact that the full "morning after" treatment consists of taking
only four (4) to eight (8) pills, the entire packet of pills may be dispensed. You will be
required to purchased the entire packet of birth control pills. One pack of combination
pills will cost approximately $20.
Emergency birth control works by preventing the possibly fertilized egg from reaching
the uterus. The Abortion Pill (RU486) works after implantation has occurred and
pregnancy is established.
For More Information...
You can find out more information on emergency contraception by contacting the
Contributing to this FAQ on emergency contraception: Boston University, a National
Center of Excellence in Women's Health sponsored by the Office on Women's Health in the
Department of Health and Human Services
All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be
copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in
the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the source is appreciated.
Publication date: 2000