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Emergency contraception

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The following are excerpts from the Latest Options in EC: A tool Kit for Health Care Providers & Their Patients on Emergency Contraception, a resource guide published in December 2009 by District II of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

  • The goal of EC (Emergency Contraception) is  to prevent unintended pregnancy.
  • Approximately 50% of of all pregnancies in the USA are unintended, resulting from incorrect or inconsistent use of a primary contraceptive method or non-use of contraception at time of intercourse.
  • EC refers to the 3 options presented in this guide: Plan B (the Morning-After pill, actually it’s a 2-tablet approach), Next Choice (a generic version of Plan B), Plan B One-Step (the Morning-After as one tablet).  Other methods include combination estrogen-progestin oral contraceptive pills as well as the copper-containing IUD.
  • EC is effective for up to 5 days (62%) after unprotected intercourse, but is most effective (92%) when taken in the first 12 hours.
  • EC is safe, had no known harmful effects if taken promptly.
  • EC is NOT an ABORTION pill: it does not cause an abortion and does not interrupt an established pregnancy!
  • Common side effects include nausea and vomiting, irregular vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, headache, dizziness, fatigue, and change in timing of the next menstrual period.
  • Repeated/frequent use of EC is not as effective as routine contraception (the Pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, the IUD), may lead to exposure to higher total levels of hormones, and leads to more side effects than other contraceptive methods.
  • Accessibility: for women 17 and older, EC is available behind the counter without prescription (will need government-issued ID to prove age). Younger women need a prescription from a healthcare provider.  Both men and women can buy it and there is no limit of frequency of purchase.
  • Average cost: $35-$60 for Plan B or Plan B One-Step; $32-$54 for Next Choice.  Some services/locations in New York provide financial assistance, such as the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, family planning programs offered by the NY State Department of Health, Medicaid.
  • EC does not offer protection against sexually transmitted infections or HIV/AIDS.

To best prevent unplanned pregnancy, you and your partner should use birth control every time you have sex.

Talk to your doctor about available options.

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