Emergency Contraceptive Pills

p-planbEven when women and men are being careful about preventing pregnancy, birth control can fail. Condoms can break, (especially if they are not used or stored properly), pills can be forgotten, and shots can be missed. Sometimes a woman may not have a choice about using birth control because someone forces or intimidates her to have sex. There is an option or second chance to prevent pregnancy and that is emergency contraception.

Emergency contraceptive pills or ECPs are a high dose of the progrestin in birth control pills that is taken as soon as possible after intercourse, preferably within 72 hours, but can still be effective up to 5 days or 120 hours. If too much time elapses, it will not be able to prevent a pregnancy from happening. If used correctly, emergency contraception is 75% to 90% effective in preventing pregnancy. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is.

Emergency contraception works most commonly by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg. If an egg has already been released, emergency contraception may prevent fertilization of an egg by a sperm. Although unlikely, it may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Emergency contraception is not an abortion. Once a fertilized egg has implanted itself in the uterus, pregnancy is established and ECPs are ineffective.

ECP is most commonly given orally in one dose taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse. The most common form of ECP is a progestin-only pill called Plan B. There are now many generic forms available.  Side effects are few and include:

  • Nausea and occasionally vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Menstrual changes
  • Headaches

Your menstrual period should begin within 3 weeks of taking Plan B. If not, you should follow up for a pregnancy test. Emergency contraception should not be used by women who are already pregnant. A pregnancy test should be done first for women who have any unusual vaginal bleeding, are late for a period or who have missed a period. ECPs should not be used as a substitute for regular birth control as it is not as effective.


If you have had unprotected intercourse, you may also be at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important that you be tested and treated. If you remain sexually active you should consider all your birth control options and use a regular method that you and your provider determine is best for you.

Emergency contraception is available at our clinic during normal clinic hours. You will receive ECP on the same day as your request. Walk-ins for ECP are accepted but it is best to call ahead to avoid waiting until a staff member is available. If you are already a patient here and unable to come in to the clinic, an assessment can be done over the phone and the pills can be mailed to you or a designated person can pick them up for you.

To request ECP or more information on ECP, STIs and birth control methods, contact our office, at 275 West Main street in Platteville, by calling 348-9766 or toll free at 1-877-449-7422.  ECP is available at our clinic Monday through Friday.

We are also partnering with the Help-line to provide ECP after our normal clinic hours in the evenings and weekends.  Call 1-800-924-2624 and ask for Emergency Contraception.  You will be instructed on how to access ECP for low cost to no cost.

ECP can also be obtained over -the-counter at all the local pharmacies.  It can be more costly and prices and products may vary.

There is also a toll free ECP hotline number for the State of Wisconsin sponsored by the Wisconsin Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. By calling the toll free number you will be directed to the nearest ECP provider or have ECP prescribed over the phone and mailed to you overnight. The toll free number is 1-877-975-9858. This is not a 24 hour service. More information on ECP can also be obtained by calling the Emergency Contraception hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE or visiting their website at www.NOT-2-LATE.com.

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