Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Contraception

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Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Contraception

Unprotected sex happens. If you are not on birth control, but have had unprotected sex and don’t want to become pregnant, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. Choices offers Medical Abortion (also called the “abortion pill” or RU 486) and it is most effective when used as early in the pregnancy as possible.

Emergency Contraception Defined

Emergency contraception is a form of birth control taken after intercourse for the purpose of lowering pregnancy risk. Emergency contraception exists in IUD and pill form. This option can be taken after having unprotected sex or if a woman believes that her chosen method of birth control has failed.

How Emergency Contraception Works

Many think that emergency contraception and abortion are the same thing. They are not. Abortion is a procedure that terminates an existing pregnancy, while emergency contraception prevents pregnancy from occurring.

Emergency contraception in pill form prevents an egg from being released by the vagina. In IUD form, the sperm is targeted and eliminated before it can fertilize an egg. The pill form can be taken for up to five days following unprotected sex. However, the general recommendation is to take the pill within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.

Responsible Use, Effectiveness, and Side Effects

Emergency contraception in pill form is meant for emergencies; this birth control method should never be considered to be an ongoing birth control method. Instead, it should only be used when deemed absolutely necessary. This is because the emergency contraceptive pill is not considered to be an effective choice for birth control. As well, taking this kind of contraception can mean dealing with side effects.

The side effects of the emergency contraceptive pill can vary, from one person to another, but can include heavy vaginal bleeding, irregular periods, vomiting, and back pain, as well as many of the same side effects as those experienced by women on birth control. These include fatigue, nausea, and cramping.

The pill and IUD have many of the same side effects. However, because of the way in which the latter works and because it must be surgically inserted, other complications can arise. These include allergic reactions, backaches, and more intense cramping.

Which Method of Emergency Contraception Is Best?

The decision about which emergency contraception to choose will depend on a few factors. First, it’s important to know that there is more than one kind of contraceptive pill to choose from. Plan B, My Way, and Next Choice all contain the hormone levonorgestrel.

If you weigh more than 165 pounds, have a BMI under 25, and are taking a levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptive pill like Plan B, you may need a higher dose to ensure pregnancy prevention.

Ella, another emergency contraceptive pill, contains ulipristal acetate. If you are taking certain medications or have severe asthma, Ella may not be for you. This option may be less effective for women whose BMI is higher than 35.

Plan B is available over the counter without a prescription to women of all ages. However, you must be 17 years of age or older to get Next Choice or My Way, which is also an over-the-counter option. A prescription is required for women under 17 years of age. Ella requires a prescription.

If Emergency Contraception Is Not Possible

You may have had unprotected sex due to an inability to have in IUD inserted. Or, you may not be able to take emergency contraceptive pills for health reasons. Where this is the case, you do have several options.

Abstinence and Prevention

Abstinence from intercourse is the only way to guarantee that you won’t become pregnant. There are many ways to get close to your partner without having actual intercourse, such as oral sex. If you and your partner want to have intercourse, ensure that you or your partner always have a supply of condoms, which will provide 98% effectiveness against pregnancy.

Situations Which Can Increase Your Risk of Pregnancy

There are many situations which can increase your risk of becoming pregnant. Some women are not eligible for emergency contraception, or may not be able to be covered by insurance.

Others may not be able to obtain a prescription for the contraception they need or may not have taken emergency contraception within the recommended three to five days after having unprotected sex. All of these can increase the risk of becoming pregnant.

Your Options if You Become Pregnant

If you have had unprotected sex and become pregnant, you have several options.

Emergency Medicaid

For women without insurance coverage or low-income women, emergency Medicaid is available in the state of New York.

Women who need pre-natal, abortion, or other services must have an income below a certain threshold to qualify for Medicaid. For example, a woman living in a single-person household must have an income of $15,800 or below to qualify for coverage.1 Women who are unemployed can also qualify for emergency Medicaid, as can those women who are of undocumented alien status or who are considered to be temporary non-immigrants.

You must complete an application for emergency Medicaid, which can take time to process, depending on where you are seeking health services. Some locations will process Medicaid applications on the same day they are received.

The Family Planning Benefit Program

Women who are unable to get covered by Medicaid can apply for the Family Planning Benefit Program, or FPBP, which provides coverage for reproductive and sexual health services. FPBP can be obtained at women’s health centers in New York and helps uninsured women, as well as those with insurance coverage who need confidential services.

Women needing an abortion will not find this coverage under FPBP. However, the program does provide STI and HIV testing, in addition to pregnancy counseling and testing.

Additional Ways to Obtain Coverage

There are several community health centers in New York which provide comprehensive care. Their services are offered on a sliding fee scale for affordability at all levels of income. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provides low-cost testing for STIs in addition to other health services.

Abortion Services in the State of New York

If you cannot obtain or take emergency contraception, have become pregnant, and want an abortion, New York State offers far fewer barriers to terminating pregnancy than other states. Women seeking an abortion in New York do not have to endure any waiting periods.

Women who have abortions in New York State are protected by its legislature, which aims to make all abortion options and procedures as safe as possible. Abortions past 24 weeks are illegal in New York State, as performing abortions past this threshold can place a patient’s life at significant risk.

The Most Options and Levels of Care

You may not live in the State of New York, or even in the United States, but may need abortion and other women’s health services. If this is the case, you need to find a health center with the most options possible.

All women, regardless of their age, gender identity, nationality, or culture can benefit from the wide range of services offered by Choices Women’s Medical Center. Located in Jamaica, New York, Choices offers a full range of gynecological treatment and testing, as well as a complete pre-natal program and abortion services to 24 weeks.

Choices Women’s Medical Center accepts New York Medicaid, as well as Medicaid from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. Abortion services are available to women within the United States, as well as women from Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Barbados.

In addition to abortion services, Choices also offers a full range of educational, gynecological, counseling and treatment services to all women. Learn more about the many forms of women’s health care Choices offers by calling (718) 786-5000.


  1. https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/1637 
  2. https://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/sites/default/files/Essential%20Plan%20Fact%20Sheet%202017.pdf

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