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Plan B pills can prevent pregnancy following sex without birth control. Several other emergency contraceptives exist but are typically less effective for regular use.

This article details what emergency contraception is and what factors to consider when choosing the right option. It outlines several emergency contraception products, regular birth control methods, and frequently asked questions.

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Emergency contraception refers to a method of birth control that people can use right after sexual intercourse to help prevent pregnancy.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, emergency contraception is appropriate for anyone who:

  • forgot to take their birth control pills more than once
  • did not use any barrier methods for sexual activity
  • used a broken condom

There are different forms of emergency contraception, including Plan B. Plan B contains the drug levonorgestrel, and people sometimes refer to it as “the morning-after pill.”

There are various types of emergency contraception available. Some options will work for one person but may be unsuitable for others.

Some factors to consider when choosing the right emergency contraception include:

  • Weight: Ella can be less effective in people with higher body weight.
  • Convenience: Some emergency contraception pills require no prescription and are available to purchase online for people who cannot leave their house. Getting a copper intrauterine (IUD) device requires a trip to the doctor’s office, which is not always an option for some people.
  • Sexual activity: Emergency contraception is typically effective for up to 5 days, but this depends on the last time a person had sex without contraception. People buying the Ella pill should take it as soon as they can.
  • Breastfeeding: Ella’s manufacturer recommends against taking this pill if a person is breastfeeding. Plan B pills and copper IUDs do not affect breast milk.

This table provides a comparison between the available Plan B alternatives:

Plan B alternativeFormWho is it suitable forPricePrescription required
Ellapillpeople with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or less$45yes
Take Actionpillpeople weighing less than 155 pounds (lbs)$39.99no
AfterPillpillpeople weighing less than 155 lbs$20no
My Choicepillpeople weighing less than 155 lbs$11.99no
ParagardIUDpeople with obesity or who are breastfeedingup to $1300yes

The below is a review of each product:

Ella

Ella is a pill that can prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after sexual intercourse. It is available with a prescription from a healthcare professional.

Ella is less effective for those with a high BMI, and the manufacturer advises against using it if a person is breastfeeding. The pill can cause side effects, such as headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, period pain, fatigue, and dizziness. It’s common to experience abnormal bleeding or unscheduled bleeding after using any form of emergency contraception.

In addition, this pill is available for purchase online for $45 per month. Though it is one-time use, it comes with a three-month supply option and is available with insurance coverage.

Read more about Ella here.

Take Action

Take Action is an emergency contraception pill that people should take within 3 days of having sex. It contains the drug levonorgestrel and is available without a prescription.

The University of Michigan Health System mentions that side effects of taking the pill might include:

The Take Action pill is available for $39.99. There is free standard shipping and a 90-day return guarantee.

Read more about the Take Action pill here.

AfterPill

AfterPill contains 1.5 milligrams (mg) of levonorgestrel and is effective when people take it up to 3 days after having sex. However, it is most effective within the first 12 hours.

The pill requires no prescription and is only available online. People can order AfterPill directly from the manufacturer’s website for $20, and shipping takes around 5–7 days.

My Choice

My Choice is a levonorgestrel pill that is effective when taken within 3 days of engaging in sexual activity.

It can cause:

  • menstrual changes
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • breast pain

My Choice is available online for $11.99 with free shipping and a 30-day return guarantee.

Paragard

Paragard is an IUD that a gynecologist inserts into the uterus. Gynecologists are doctors who specialize in women’s reproductive health. The copper IUD prevents pregnancy mainly by causing an inflammatory reaction in the uterus, which creates an environment unsuitable for conception.

Paragard is available with a prescription and can last for up to 10 years. The device is 99% effective, and people can use it immediately after having a baby and while breastfeeding.

One 2015 study explains that people can use copper IUDs as long-term contraception. However, for effective emergency pregnancy prevention, a doctor should insert Paragard within 5 days after unprotected intercourse.

Paragard’s price can vary up to $1300. The manufacturer states that people can get full insurance coverage but should first check with their provider.

Read more about Paragard here.

People who wish to avoid pregnancy may consider using regular contraceptive methods.

There are two types of regular contraceptive methods:

Hormonal birth control

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) highlights various hormonal birth control options. These methods prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs and thicken the cervical mucus so that the sperm does not reach the egg.

Some hormonal birth control methods include:

  • Implantable rod: This is a matchstick-sized rod that contains the hormone progestin. Doctors place it under the skin of the upper arm. The rods are 99% effective and can last for up to 3 years.
  • Combined pills: These contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. The pills are available with a prescription, and doctors recommend taking them every day. Combined pills have a failure rate of around 7%.
  • Patch: A hormonal birth control patch comes with estrogen and progestin. People wear the patch on their buttocks, lower abdomen, upper arm, or upper back. Patches are available with a prescription and are around 91% effective.

Nonhormonal birth control

Some people may prefer nonhormonal birth control methods, which can cause fewer side effects than hormonal methods. Nonhormonal birth control options include:

  • Condoms: Condoms can prevent sperm from entering the woman’s reproductive system. Latex condoms are the most common type and can also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. They are generally less than 82% effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use.
  • Spermicides: These are available in various forms, including foams, gels, and tablets. Women can place spermicides inside their vagina before having sexual intercourse to kill sperm.
  • Sponges: Sponges also contain spermicides. Women place them in their vagina before sexual intercourse to block sperm from entering the cervix. Contraceptive sponges work for up to 24 hours and are more effective in women who have never been pregnant.

Frequently asked questions about Plan B alternatives include:

What happens if someone cannot afford emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception comes at different prices.

People who have an insurance plan may be eligible for free contraception. It is best to contact the insurance provider to check what type of coverage they offer.

Do people need a prescription for emergency contraception?

Anyone opting for Paragard or Ella will require a prescription. However, other emergency contraception pills are available without a prescription.

Where can someone buy emergency contraception?

Individuals can buy pills containing levonorgestrel from drugstores, pharmacies, and online providers.

However, those buying Paragard or the Ella pill will have to speak with a doctor to obtain a prescription.

There are many Plan B alternatives for emergency contraception, such as the Ella, Take Action, and My Choice pills. Someone can also get a Paragard IUD, which is suitable for regular use. The best option depends on various factors, such as the individual’s weight and whether they are breastfeeding.

Costs can vary, but some people are eligible for free contraception through their health insurance provider. Health professionals can provide advice on the best type of birth control or emergency contraceptive.