Even though guys can't get pregnant, it's important to know about emergency contraception if you are having sex with a female partner.
What is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception (EC) is a backup method of birth control that a woman can use to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Even though you may have heard EC called the "morning-after pill", it can actually be used within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected intercourse.
Names of EC you should be familiar with:
- Plan B One-Step™ and Next Choice®
These are both are available over-the-counter (without a prescription), for young women age 17 and over. Girls who are 16 and under will need a prescription from their health care provider.
- Ella™ (Ulipristal acetate)
Ella™ is a new brand of EC. In order to purchase Ella™ from the pharmacy, all women need a prescription from their health care provider.
When should a woman use emergency contraception?
Your partner should use EC if:
- You had unprotected sex, which means that you didn't use a condom and your partner wasn't using an IUD or a hormonal method of birth control.
- Your partner forgot to take her birth control pills (and you've been having sex).
- Your condom broke or slipped off while you were having sex.
How does emergency contraception work?
The medication in EC works by giving a strong short burst of hormones that change a woman's menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation. The ovulation period is the time in a woman's menstrual cycle that she is most likely to get pregnant.
It is important to remember that EC doesn't continue to protect against pregnancy during the rest of the menstrual cycle.
Does EC cause an abortion?
EC will NOT cause an abortion because it doesn't work if a woman is already pregnant.
How well does EC work?
Emergency contraception lowers a woman's risk of pregnancy by 75-88%. It's important to remember that emergency contraception does not always work, and does not guarantee that pregnancy will be prevented. EC also doesn't work as well as regular birth control methods and doesn't protect you or your partner from sexually transmitted infections.
The best way to prevent pregnancy is to use a regular birth control method such as condoms or birth control pills, or to not have sexual intercourse.
Is EC safe?
Yes. Millions of women have used emergency contraception without any problems.
How can my partner get emergency contraception?
In the United States women 17 and older can get Plan B One-Step™ and Next Choice® at pharmacies without a prescription. For young women under the age of 17, EC may require a prescription depending upon the state (some states have a special program that allows trained pharmacists to give out EC). Your partner can also get Ella™ (Ulipristal acetate) at a pharmacy, but she will need a prescription.
Is it ok for my partner to use EC as her regular form of birth control?
Emergency contraception is not meant to be a regular method of birth control. It is meant to be a one-time emergency treatment. Emergency contraception can be used when a condom breaks, when a diaphragm or cervical cap gets moved, if a woman is raped, or any time when there is unprotected sex. Your partner should not use emergency contraception as her only protection against pregnancy, because this method doesn't work as well as other types of birth control.
Key Points to Remember about Emergency Contraception (EC):
- Emergency contraception is a safe treatment to help prevent pregnancy in adolescent girls and adult women who have had unprotected sex.
- EC will NOT cause an abortion. It does not work after ovulation.
- Emergency contraception does not guarantee that pregnancy is prevented. The best way to prevent pregnancy is to use a regular birth control method, such as condoms or birth control pills, or to not have sexual intercourse.
- Plan B One-Step™ and Next Choice® (emergency contraception) is available to young women 17 and older at pharmacies in the United States without a prescription. EllaT is available with a prescription.
- If a young woman is 16 or younger, she will need a prescription for Plan B One-Step™ or Ella™.
As a young man, you might not be familiar with all of the types of birth control that are available for women. Read on to learn more about the different birth control options available for males and for females...