Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. (That means the EC pills are not the same as the abortion pill.) There are four types of EC to choose from and they all work up to 5 days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex. But use it sooner rather than later to reduce the possibility of getting pregnant.
Types of Emergency Contraceptions
Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, EContra One-Step, My Way, After Pill and Levonorgestrel. Available over the counter or online without a prescription. Similar to birth control pills, but at a much higher dose. Can work up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but effectiveness decreases each day.
How to Use It
Emergency Contraception isn’t a method you should rely on all the time—there are much more effective methods out there. But if you have unprotected sex, it’s the quickest and easiest “after-the-fact” option out there. Here are the different types you can choose from.####Copper-T IUD This is [the most effective](/features/110) EC there is. If you get the Paragard [IUD](/birth-control/iud#details_tab) inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, it can lower the chance of pregnancy by 99.9%. You’ll need to make an appointment with a health care provider to have this procedure. ####ella You need a prescription to pick up [ella](/features/87) at a local pharmacy. In some states, you can order it from an [online pharmacy](https://www.prjktruby.com/products/ella/) without getting a prescription first (they handle that for you on their website). There’s no age limit to access ella. Take the one-pill formula within 5 days after unprotected sex. ####Levonorgestrel-based pills [Levonorgestrel-based EC pills are available off the shelf](/features/285) at pharmacies and grocery stores to anyone with no age restrictions. That means you should be able to buy Plan B One-Step or generic options like Next Choice One Dose, My Way, and Levonorgestrel without having a prescription or showing your ID. All levonorgestrel-based EC pills work like birth control pills, but at a much higher dose and taken temporarily. Best used as soon as possible, though they can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way consist of just one pill that's to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. (The original Plan B consisted of two pills and is no longer being sold.)
Next Choice and Levonorgestrel are both two-pill formulas. The instructions say to take one pill right away and the second 12 hours later, but research shows you can also take both pills at the same time.
Remember: Use EC as soon as possible after you’ve had unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better—within 24-hours to three days is ideal. But EC will still reduce your risk of pregnancy for up to 5 days. (The instructions for Plan B and Next Choice say to take it within 72 hours after sex, but studies show that Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Levonorgestrel can be taken up to 5 days after sex.)
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone's different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.