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Emergency Contraception (EC)

Answers to some common questions about emergency contraception:

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC), also known as Plan B or the morning-after pill, is a way a woman can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex whether she and her partner didn't use a condom during sex, the condom slipped off or tore, or she has missed a few doses of her birth control pills.

EC can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, but it becomes less effective as each day goes by. It is best to take it as soon as possible! The original form of EC comes as two pills. If you receive this type of emergency contraception, we recommend you take both pills at once. Newer brands of EC now come as a single pill.

How does emergency contraception work?

Women don't become pregnant immediately after sex. It can take up to five days for sperm to reach an egg after a couple has sex. Emergency contraception (EC) works by preventing an egg from being released by the woman's body. If a woman takes EC, when sperm arrives there will be no egg to connect with or fertilize. Therefore, she won't become pregnant.

What side effects can emergency contraception cause?

Some young women report nausea, irregular vaginal bleeding, or headaches after taking emergency contraception (EC). These side effects do not last longer than a day or so.

Where can I get emergency contraception?

If you are age 17 or older, you can get emergency contraception at any pharmacy without a prescription. That means you can request it at any drugstore without having to call your doctor or contact a clinic. The pills usually cost around $40. They are covered by Medicaid, so if you have a Medicaid card, bring it with you to the pharmacy.

If you don't have Medicaid or if you are 16 years old or younger, Project STAY can help you get emergency contraception. Call us at 646-319-4998. You can also call 311 to get a list of clinics near you that can help you get EC.

Where can I learn more about emergency contraception?

Watch clips from Harlem Health Promotion Center's award-winning documentary to learn more about EC from the perspective of Harlem youth.

Check out this YouTube video by Planned Parenthood for solid information about how emergency contraception works and how you can get it.

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