Emergency Contraception

Plan B One-Step

Plan B One-Step (also known as the “morning after pill”) is intended to prevent pregnancy after known or suspected contraceptive failure, unprotected intercourse, or forced sex. It is one pill that contains large amounts of levonorgestrel, a progestin hormone found in some birth control pills. It is recommended to be taken within 72 hours of sex. It may work by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. It won’t disrupt an implanted pregnancy, but may prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus and continuing to develop, which is a form of early abortion.

Side effects may include changes in periods, nausea, lower abdominal pain, tiredness, headache, and dizziness. If your period is more than a week late, you may be pregnant. Plan B One-Step should not be taken during pregnancy. Nor should it be used as a routine form of birth control because it isn’t as effective.

Women who experience severe abdominal pain after taking the drug may have an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and should get immediate medical help.

A systematic review of 14 studies about emergency contraception (EC) (a total of over 13,000 women) concluded that increased access increases its use, but was not shown to reduce unintended pregnancy rates. This study also said that Plan B’s effectiveness is not precisely known, but is significantly lower than the original estimates.

There are no long-term studies on the safety of current forms of EC if used frequently over long periods of time.


Ella (ulipristal) is an emergency contraceptive for use within 5 days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. It is to be used only once during a menstrual cycle. If used as directed, ella is reported to reduce the chance of pregnancy, but is not effective in every case. Ella may reduce the chance of pregnancy by preventing or postponing ovulation. It also may work by preventing an embryo from implanting in the uterus, which is a form of early abortion. Ella is a chemical cousin to the abortion pill Mifeprex. Both share the progesterone-blocking effect of disrupting the embryo’s attachment to the womb, causing its death. Ella’s impact on existing human pregnancies was not tested; however, ella did cause abortions in pregnant animals, including monkeys, and carries the same potential in humans.

The most common side effects of ella include headache, nausea, stomach (abdominal) pain, menstrual cramps, tiredness, and dizziness. Women who experience abdominal pain after using ella should be evaluated right away for an ectopic pregnancy. Ella may not be as effective if taken with certain drugs, or may change the effectiveness of certain drugs. Much is unknown about the drug, including its effect on women who are under 18, on pregnant women, and on women who are breast feeding.

Source: Before You Decide, Care Net. Used by permission.