Not very long ago, if you had intercourse without using contraception or if your contraception failed, you had no choice but to wait, hoping and praying for your period to start and panicking if it didn’t. Times have changed. Now if you had unprotected s*ex or if your condom breaks, for example, you can still prevent a pregnancy if you act in time. Here are the options you have for emergency contraception.

1. Intrauterine Device (IUD)

While an IUD is a method of contraception, it can also be used to prevent conception after intercourse. In fact, the IUD is the most effective form of post-coitus contraception. If this T-shaped device is inserted into the vagina within 72 hours of intercourse, there is less than one percent chance of pregnancy. As a bonus, the IUD is the most effective form of birth control and lasts up to 10 years but is removable at any point if you decide you want to get pregnant. At 500 dollars or more for insertion, the IUD is more expensive than other forms of emergency contraceptive, but if you look at the cost savings of birth control over the next five to 10 years, it ends up much less expensive in the long run.

2. Plan B One-Step

Plan B is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill. It prevents conception by stopping either ovulation or fertilization, depending where you are in your cycle, or by not allowing implantation. With recent rulings, Plan B can now be purchased at a drug store by anyone in the U.S. without a prescription. If you take Plan B within 24 hours of unprotected intercourse, it is 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. If you take it within 72 hours, it is 89 percent effective. It is not recommended past 72 hours because the effectiveness continuously diminishes with the passage of time. The cost is between 35 and 65 dollars. There is some evidence that Plan B is not as effective if you have a great deal of excess body fat. If you do, Ella is a better choice.

3. Other Progestin-Only Pills

Pills that work the same way as Plan B include My Way, Next Choice and off-label Levonorgestrel pills. These have similar rates to Plan B, but in some cases you would need to take two pills instead of one. As with Plan B, if you have excess body fat you may want to choose Ella instead.

4. Regular Oral Contraceptives

If you have access to enough regular birth control pills, they too can be used as emergency contraception. You will need to take a larger dose of birth control pills to make a similar amount of hormones to the amount you would take with pills meant as emergency contraception. The difficulty with this approach is that the dose is not the same for every specific brand of pill. You will also need to take two doses with most types of pill rather than the one pill you take with Plan B. Please click on the link below to find your doses depending on the brand. 

5. Ella

Currently available by prescription only, Ella contains an antiprogestin, which is more effective than progestin-only pills. Your chances of getting pregnant using Ella are 65 percent more effective than progestin-only pills in the first 24 hours after unprotected and 42 percent more effective 72 hours after. Unlike the progestin-only pills, Ella stays highly effective even five days after unprotected s*ex, though its effectiveness lowers if the unprotected s*ex occurs immediately after ovulation. Ella is currently available only by prescription. Ella costs at least 50 dollars at pharmacies.

Emergency contraception should not be used as a regular birth control choice. If you are taking a pill such as Plan B or Ella, the large amounts of hormones can make you feel ill, and it is very expensive to purchase. The IUD, too, is very expensive though it makes back its cost over time. But if you do have an emergency, whether because of poor planning or accident, it’s good to know you have options. Be aware that the sooner you use emergency contraception the more effective it is, so try to use it within 24 hours of unprotected sex.