Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (sometimes called EC, Plan B or the "morning-after pill") is birth control you can take after unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy.

How it works

Emergency contraception helps prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries. If the egg and sperm can't meet, then a pregnancy can't happen. Emergency contraception is not an abortion.

Types of emergency contraception

There are three types of emergency contraception:

  • Levonorgestrel pill
    • Can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but it is best to take it as soon as possible
    • Available over the counter without a prescription
  • Ulipristal acetate pill
    • Can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex
    • Requires a prescription
  • Copper intrauterine device (IUD)
    • Can be inserted into the uterus up to 120 hours after unprotected sex
    • Requires insertion by a health care provider

Which type should I use?

It depends. Some things to consider when choosing the right emergency contraception method for you include:

  • Prescription:
    • The levonorgestrel pill is the only emergency contraception available without a prescription
  • Time since unprotected sex:
    • The levonorgestrel pill is most effective immediately after unprotected sex, and should not be taken more than 72 hours after unprotected sex
    • The ulipristal acetate pill and copper IUD are effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.
  • Body mass index (BMI):
    • The copper IUD is typically the most effective method for people who weigh more than 165 pounds.
    • Among people who weigh more than 165 pounds, the ulipristal acetate pill is typically less effective than the copper IUD, but more effective than the levonorgestrel pill
  • Comfort with a surgical procedure:
    • Copper IUD insertions and removals require a surgical procedure
  • Recent use of hormonal birth control:
    • The ulipristal acetate pill does not work as well as the levonorgestrel pill or the copper IUD among people who use hormonal contraception (such as the pill, patch, ring, or injection) immediately before or after taking emergency contraception

If possible, talk to a health care provider to determine which method is best for you.

Where to get emergency contraception

  • NYC Sexual Health Clinics provide the levonogestrel pill within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Services are free for people ages 12 to 18. Services are low- to no-cost for people 19 or older.
  • To find another clinic where you can get emergency contraception for free, call 311 or visit the NYC HealthMap.
  • The levonorgestrel pill is available without a prescription at pharmacies. You can buy the pill ahead of time so you have it available when you need it. The levonorgestrel pill costs about $50 at the pharmacy.

More information