Five Things to Know About Emergency Contraception

by Allison Bush Editor

There are two types of emergency contraception

There's both hormonal and non-hormonal methods of emergency contraception.

Hormonal methods of emergency contraception use pills containing derivatives of progesterone and/or estrogen to prevent fertilization up to five days after unprotected sex. With non-hormonal contraceptives, you can use a device, such as the copper intrauterine device (IUD), or ulipristal acetate, a medication that blocks the action of progestin in the course of fertilization.

Blank prescription, no prescription needed concept.

You do not need a prescription for emergency contraception

In most of the US, if you are 18 years of age or older, you do not need a prescription for emergency contraception. However, New York City is dispensing the morning-after pill to girls as young as 14 at more than 50 public high schools.

Source: CBS News

Condoms unlike emergency contraceptives help prevent STDs

Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs

Emergency contraception does not prevent transmission of a sexually acquired infection such as herpes, HIV, gonorrhea or chlamydia. A condom should be used to protect against these infections.

Very worried young woman.

You can use emergency contraception more than once

Emergency contraceptives can be used multiple times, even within the same menstrual cycle. However, it definitely should not be used as your primary means of birth control. You should use it only as an emergency backup and instead speak with your doctor about a contraceptive that you can reliably and regularly use.

Couples hands, compassion.

Emergency contraception is not the same as an abortion

They're not the same. Emergency contraception only works before there is a pregnancy in the uterus and will not affect a pregnancy that has already occurred. A medical abortion (like RU-486) terminates an ongoing pregnancy.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.