Teen Health: Plan B

Did you forget to take your birth control pills? Or not use protection?

Don't panic.

Mistakes happen, but with emergency contraception, if you're not ready to be pregnant, you don't have to be.

Watch videos of teens visiting a clinic on their own

What Is It?

Emergency contraception (sometimes called EC or the "morning-after pill") is birth control a woman can take after unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy. It can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, but it's more effective the sooner it's taken.

What It's Not.

EC is not an abortion. It helps prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex. EC does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Only condoms can help prevent anyone from getting an STI, including HIV. Remember, the best way to prevent a pregnancy and an STI (other than not having sex) is by using condoms plus another form of birth control, such as pills, the contraceptive shot or an IUD. Learn more about your options.

How Does It Work?

The EC pill, which contains the same hormone found in most birth control pills, helps prevent a woman's eggs from being released and meeting up with any sperm. If the egg and sperm can't meet, then a pregnancy can't happen.

Does It Work?

EC is very effective and safe. It works best when taken within 72 hours (3 days or less) after unprotected sex. It still works (but not as well) when taken within 120 hours (5 days) after sex, so the sooner you take it, the better. EC reduces your risk of getting pregnant by 88%. And if you take EC within the first 24 hours after sex, it reduces your risk of pregnancy by up to 95%. It is safe for most women to take, and has very few, if any, side effects.

How Do I Get It?

There are many places you can get EC. Buy it at a drugstore without a prescription, or get it at a clinic. Think about getting it now, in case you need it later. To find a clinic where you can get EC for free, visit a NYC Sexual Health Clinic, see this provider list (PDF), or call 311.