Each year around 3 million women within the United States develop undesired pregnancies because of either misusing contraception or not using it at all. If you are concerned about making the life-changing decisions associated with unplanned pregnancies, then you still have an option in the form of the morning after pill and week after emergency contraceptive (EC) methods. There are multiple things to consider if you have unprotected sex and that includes your choices for emergency contraception.

How to Avoid Pregnancy After Sex

Take EC Right Away

Emergency birth control pills are also known as Plan B, morning after pills and emergency contraception, which you take these after having unwanted or unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy. These pills contain a stronger dose of the same hormones in normal birth control pills and therefore prevent pregnancy.

These pills are not an abortion pill. It is important to clarify that they prevent pregnancy from ever occurring and therefore do not end it. If you take an emergency contraceptive, you won’t be having an abortion and your baby won’t have birth defects.

The important thing to remember, however, is that to increase the effectiveness of emergency contraceptives you should take them right away. They work best if you take them within 24 hours. If you take them within 72 hours of unprotected sex, you will still decrease your risk of pregnancy by 89% and in some cases the pills may even work five days (or 120 hours) after sex.

Recommended EC Brands

In terms of how to avoid pregnancy after sex, there are multiple emergency contraceptive brands on the market, but for the best results, you should know which ones work best. The following table introduces some of the best brands that experts recommend.



Side Effects

Plan B

Plan B can help prevent fertilization and ovulation if you take it within three days of unprotected sex. You can get it over the counter without a prescription.

Some side effects can include breast tenderness, headache, tiredness, and nausea.

Ella (or ellaOne)

This works the same way that Plan B does but can be effective for up to five days after having unprotected sex and doesn’t get less effective during that time period.

So far Ella seems safe but there hasn’t been as much long term research as with Plan B. It leads to similar side effects, including dizziness, headache, tiredness and nausea.

Copper IUD

A final option for emergency contraception is having a doctor insert a copper IUD within five days after you have unprotected sex. It will work by increasing the amount of cervical mucus while repelling sperm. Best of all, it remains effective (when inserted) for ten years.

Most side effects will disappear within a few months and can include bleeding or cramping between periods.

More Questions About EC

  • Where can I get them?

You can get emergency contraceptive at many places including certain hospital emergency rooms, private doctors, women’s health centers in colleges or public ones, or at Planned Parenthood. In some cases your doctor may prescribe your EC on the phone and then call in the prescription. You could also get Plan B without a prescription.

  • Who shouldn’t use EC?

Plan B does not harm an existing fetus or affect a current pregnancy. You should not use Ella if you are pregnant or think you are as experts are still unsure of whether there is a risk for a human fetus. In animal studies, there was fetal loss. You should avoid using Plan B if you have a history of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) or clotting disorders.

  • What are the side effects of EC?

There are some side effects of EC and the most common ones are menstrual changes, headache, fatigue, abdominal pain, and nausea. You can ask your pharmacist or doctor about ways to reduce nausea and they may even prescribe an anti-nausea medication. You would then take this before the EC.

What Else Should I Do If I Had Unprotected Sex?

1. Do Not Douche

You should never douche after you have unprotected sex. Although doing so won’t increase your risk of getting pregnant, it can make you more prone to pelvic infections. In reality, whether or not you recently had unprotected sex, it is a bad idea to douche. That is because it will upset the natural balance of bacteria and yeast within your reproductive tract and this in turn may lead to developing an infection.

2. Take STD Test

Unfortunately, if you already had unprotected sex, you can’t do anything to prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Despite this, you can still manage or treat them. If you have unprotected sex, experts suggest that you get tested for hepatitis C and B virus, HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea within a few weeks. If your results for the hepatitis and HIV tests show up negative, you will still need to repeat the test in six months to be 100% certain that you are not infected. If you are concerned about being exposed to HIV, there is the option of taking antiretrovirals in a prophylactic course. Most of the time, however, this option is only done in high-risk situations (such as a rape victim or a health-care worker that was stuck by a needle). You should always be sure to check your results for your STD test as simply taking the test is notenough.

3. Stay Alert

Even if you take EC, you won’t be guaranteed not to be pregnant. Taking Plan B or Ella will give you a 2.6% or 1.8% chance of getting pregnant. Because of this, pay close attention, but remember that taking the morning after pill might change your menstrual flow or cause spotting, both of which make it harder to spot a pregnancy. Take a pregnancy test if you are over a week late.

4. Consider Future Birth Control

Keep in mind that EC has possible side effects and doesn’t always prevent pregnancy. Because of this, you should not rely on it as your primary birth control method. Instead, consider one of the other forms of birth control and be sure you know how to use them (especially condoms) correctly. Most condom failures are actually improper use, so stay educated to prevent pregnancy and disease.