Emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill, prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex, birth control method failure, or sexual assault. Emergency contraception is useful for prevention of pregnancy only—it will not affect an existing pregnancy.
You can take emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex to avoid pregnancy—but becomes less effective with every hour that passes, so take it as soon as possible for maximum effectiveness.
Emergency contraception works by preventing fertilization or implantation. If you are already pregnant, it will not affect an existing pregnancy. Emergency contraception is not the same as the abortion pill.
Emergency contraception is not intended for routine use as a method of birth control, as there are more effective and affordable long-term options. It also does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You may want to consider getting tested as unprotected sex puts you at higher risk for STI transmission.
After hours, call the UHS 24-Hour Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-NURS (6877).
One option for emergency (and long-term) contraception is to get the Paragard IUD inserted. This is the only non-hormonal form of emergency contraception. Paraguard is a copper-releasing device that is placed in your uterus to prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. Just like other IUDs, Paragard must be inserted and removed by a physician, and can be removed at any time.
Emergency contraception pills (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, My Way, After Pill, Levonorgestrel) are available for sale over-the-counter with no age or gender restrictions in the United States. You can also order these brand names online. This form of emergency contraception uses a high dose of the hormones found in birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. These forms of emergency contraception consist of either one pill you take immediately or two pills you take over a period of 12 hours.
Students, faculty, and staff can buy Plan B in the 40 Acres Pharmacy (SSB 1.110), which is operated by the UT College of Pharmacy. You can also call the UHS 24-Hour Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-NURS (6877) if you are not sure what type of emergency contraception to take.
The only brand of emergency contraception pills that requires a prescription is ella™. Like other pill-based forms of emergency contraception, ella™ is not restricted by age or gender. ella™ is equally effective at preventing pregnancy for 5 full days after unprotected sex. A prescription is required for ella™ because it is a newer type of emergency contraception that contains different active ingredients than over-the-counter pills.
You can schedule an appointment at UHS to get a prescription for ella™ online or by calling 512-471-4955.
Current medical literature suggests that your BMI (body-mass index) can affect the efficacy of different forms of emergency contraception.
The most effective option for people of all weights who are trying to avoid pregnancy is to get a Paragard IUD inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. If you do not want to get a Paragard IUD, the most effective emergency contraception pill for people of all weights is ella™.
If your BMI is higher than 25, over-the-counter emergency contraception may be less effective. It may not work at all if your BMI is higher than 30. If your BMI is higher than 35, ella™ may be less effective.
You can call the UHS 24-Hour Nurse Advice Line at 512-475-NURS (6877) if you need help deciding what form of emergency contraception is right for you.