Emergency contraceptive pills, also called Morning after pills, can be used any time you need a second chance to prevent pregnancy after sex. They are best used to prevent a pregnancy, not end one and they work primarily by delaying ovulation. These pills contain a special regimen of the same hormones as regular oral contraceptives and are reserved for an emergency that might produce a pregnancy, for instance, a broken condom or slipped diaphragm, non-use of contraception, rape or delay in starting with the prescribed pack of birth control pills. Young people, in particular, are often not ready the first time they make sex, and it is far more common for females to be forced to have sex.

Whatever the reason you might need it emergency contraceptive pills can significantly reduce your chances of getting pregnant and can be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. They may be effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex, as sperm can live in a woman’s body for 5 days after sex. However, the sooner you take them, the better they work.

If you use emergency contraception the right way after you have unprotected sex, it is less likely that you’ll get pregnant. Contraceptive pills are effective to the extent they are used properly as directed by your gynecologist. If you are committed to taking them exactly as prescribed and assuming you’re not currently taking any other medications that could potentially decrease the pill’s effectiveness, they can be up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. But missing pills, taking certain medications alongside and other things may hinder its efficacy.

What Kind of Emergency Contraception is Best Suited for Me?

The best emergency contraception for you depends on factors like when you had unprotected sex, which kind of emergency contraceptive pill is easiest for you to procure, your height and weight and whether you’re breastfeeding. It’s best to use the most effective method of contraception that you can.

There are different dose of a number of brands of regular birth control pills available in the market. These daily birth control pills contain 2 hormones, progestin and estrogen, and are taken in 2 doses. You take the first dose as soon as possible (up to 120 hours after you have sex without using birth control, or in case your birth control failed). You take the second dose 12 hours later (although taking so in a gap of 1-2 hours probably won’t make a difference in how effective the pills are).

Here are some other things you should be aware of while taking emergency contraceptive pills:

  • Don’t take more than a single kind of emergency contraceptive pill at a time
  • Don’t take extra pills as they probably won’t reduce your risk of pregnancy any more than the recommended dose for emergency contraception
  • If you throw up within an hour after taking the pills, call your gynecologist as you may need to repeat a dose, and it might make sense to take some anti-nausea medication
  • If you have any other symptoms you are worried about like severe pain in your leg (calf or thigh), several abdominal pain, chest pain, cough or shortness of breath, severe headaches, dizziness, weakness or numbness, blurred or loss of vision or trouble speaking, then contact your health care provider.

Your next period should occur within the next month, although it might come a few days early or late. In case you don’t get your period by the time you expect it, you might consider getting a pregnancy test.