Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (EC)  is used within 1-5 days of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. It can be given with or without prescription, based on health and timing factors. A variety of options are available in the United States: several types of emergency contraception pill (ECP) methods and the Cu-IUD.

How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

In general, EC is a very large dose of the birth control pill. It is believed that EC works by:

  • Preventing the egg from being released from the ovary (Ovulation)
  • Preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg (Fertilization)
  • *Preventing the fertilized egg from implanting onto the lining of the uterus (Implantation)

          *Note: in this regard, EC acts as an abortifacient.

What methods are available:

  • ECPs – Emergency Contraception pills consist of high doses of oral contraceptives and can be found in brand or generic forms, with prescription or over-the-counter. CDC suggests that this method is less effective than other methods by days 4-5 after intercourse.
  • Cu-IUD –A copper-releasing IUD can be inserted within five days of intercourse to stop conception and can be removed when it is certain that pregnancy has not occurred.

Choices recommends consulting healthcare providers for comprehensive reproductive health guidance.

Potential Side Effects

Since EC is a very large dose of the birth control pill, the risk for side effects from taking hormonal contraceptives are also increased. These side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Nausea and vomitting (most common side effect)
  • Cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding into the cranial cavity)
  • Cerebral thrombosis (blood clot that drains blood from the brain)
  • Melasma (skin discoloration; usually dark, irregular patches)
  • Migraine
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Retinal thrombosis (blockage of the central retinal vein that carries blood away from the eye)
  • Change in corneal curvature (steepening of the cornea)
  • Thrombophlebitis and venous thrombosis with or without embolism (blood clots in the veins)
  • Mesenteric thrombosis (blood clot in the major veins that drain blood from the intestine)
  • Hemorrhagic eruption (bleeding eruption)

Refer to the Centers for Disease Control Emergency Contraception page for further information.

Need Help?

If you feel you may be suffering from potential side effects from ECPs, please contact us immediately for an appointment.


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Choices Pregnancy Care Center
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Gainesville, GA 30503-0052

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