How to Get Emergency Contraception When You Need It

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Emergency Contraception

In the heat of the moment, birth control might be the furthest thing from your mind. Or maybe you made time to use a condom, but you’re fairly sure afterward that it failed. You and your partner might even have thought you could manage the withdrawal method but didn’t time it quite right.

Whatever the circumstances, that warm feeling of sexual passion can quickly turn into sheer icy-cold panic.

You could take your chances and just wait to see if your next period begins as usual. Or you could take action to hedge your bets. Is there time for emergency contraception?

Fear puts the urgency in emergency when it comes to trying to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. In some ways, it’s a little like trying to put the straw back into the wrapper. Instead of grasping at unwrapped straws, get your hands on a post-coital contraception solution that could save the day.

Here are three ways to get emergency contraception for pregnancy prevention and peace of mind.

1. Have It Shipped (Quietly) to Your Door

You can have your emergency contraception shipped discreetly to your door without ever leaving the house. Just a few clicks with an online provider, and help can be on its way overnight.

There are two types of “morning-after” pills. Plan B and generics, such as New Day, don’t require a prescription. You also don’t have to be 18 or older to get them.

There’s also ella, which contains the active ingredient ulipristal. You do need a prescription for this pill and must be at least age 18. When choosing between the two kinds of morning-after pills, consider your body type. Ella has been shown to be more effective than Plan B for women weighing 165 pounds or more.

Over-the-counter Plan B medications must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The window for ella is wider — up to five days. In either case, though, emergency contraception should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

If you go the online route, you’ll chat with a medical provider who will recommend what might work best for you. You can use expedited shipping if necessary to make sure it arrives on time. Go on with your life until it arrives, take the pill, and leave the panic on your doorstep.

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2. Go to the Pharmacy

You (or your partner) can travel to your local pharmacy or neighborhood drugstore for Plan B or one of its generic equivalents. You’ll find them with the condoms and lubricants in some stores or behind the counter in others.

If you aren’t concerned about privacy, you can buy a pill and take it right after unprotected sex. If you are self-conscious and don’t want anyone knowing what you’re buying, it can be awkward. This is especially true if you have to hunt for it or ask someone where it is.

You may want to go online before you make the trip. Check out the information and warnings about Plan B and the names of generics. Then you’ll know what you’re looking for if the store doesn’t carry the name brand.

If you visit your doctor for a prescription for ella, you’ll also need to make a trip to the pharmacy. Your health insurance may cover all or most of the cost of prescribed medication. That’s true whether you pick it up in person or have it delivered from an online provider.

Your trip may save some bucks for expedited shipping, although the tradeoff is a lack of privacy. You’ll have to decide what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. Just don’t take too long to ponder the decision because time is of the essence with emergency contraception.

3. Schedule an Appointment With Your Doctor

If you see your primary care provider or OB/GYN regularly, you might not need to see them in person. As with an online provider, your doctor may be able to prescribe emergency contraception via a televisit. Unlike an online provider, however, you’ll probably have to go to a pharmacy to pick it up.

As an alternative to ella, your doctor may prescribe the Paragard copper intrauterine device (IUD) for emergency contraception. Like ella, the IUD is an option within five days after unprotected sex. Consider which one will best suit your needs. ella isn’t recommended for breastfeeding women, and the IUD isn’t recommended for women with STIs, pelvic infections, or certain cancers.

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You will need to visit your doctor or health clinic to have the IUD inserted. An IUD used for routine birth control may be effective for up to 10 years. It has a few potential side effects, including cramping, spotting, and heavier periods.

If you want to have the IUD removed after it’s done its emergency work, you can. Be aware that inserting and removing an IUD is easier during your period because the cervix is more compliant. It’s probably not an emergency method you want to use repeatedly, however. The procedure is not without some discomfort.

The IUD is also much more expensive than buying a single pill. However, some health insurance will cover most or all the cost. And if you do decide to leave it in long-term, the protection could be well worth the investment.

Better Safe Than Sorry

The adage “It’s better to be safe than sorry” is good advice when it comes to emergency contraception. In a perfect world, you and your intimate partner would have used effective protection up front. That would have taken the “emergency” out of contraception.

Nonetheless, accidents happen, and when they do, you need to have a plan. Consider keeping a morning-after pill on hand for those just-in-case moments. You don’t have to wait for an emergency to have one delivered or pick one up at the pharmacy.

Don’t confuse the morning-after pill with the abortion pill, either. The morning-after pill and IUD are designed to prevent pregnancy. They have no effect on an already fertilized egg.

When you do find yourself in a crunch, it’s good to know you can get your hands on emergency contraception. While you can’t put the straw back in the wrapper, you may be able to avoid drawing the short one.

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