Is emergency contraception effective if I've had unprotected intercourse many times on one occasion?

Originally Published: October 17, 2003 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 1, 2009
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The emergency contraceptive pill: Does the amount of times I have unprotected sex in one night alter the effectiveness of the emergency contraceptive pill? Will the pill work the same no matter how many times I have unprotected sex on one occasion?

Dear Reader,

Emergency contraception (EC) is a pregnancy prevention option after having unprotected intercourse due to a birth control failure, being swept away by the moment, or rape. If a woman has had unprotected intercourse more than once in one night (or one day), she does not need to take more than one course of EC. To be as effective as possible in preventing pregnancy, a complete, single set of EC pills needs to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected intercourse (specifically from the time of the first sexual contact, if it happened more than once).

EC is now available over-the-counter in the Unites States for men and women age 17 or older, making it easier to get EC when you need it fast. Women under the age of 17 still need a prescription. EC does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For protection from STIs, use condoms and/or explore other sexual activities that involve less contact with semen and vaginal fluids (for example, outercourse).

It may make sense to talk with a health care provider to look into an ongoing, reliable form of contraception. Students at Columbia can speak with a health care provider about the many choices available, such as oral contraceptive pills, a diaphragm, a cervical cap, a contraceptive patch, a contraceptive ring, a contraceptive injection or implant, or an IUD; call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment. Outside of Columbia, speak with your regular health call provider, or visit a health center such as Planned Parenthood or your local department of health clinic.

Best of luck finding a method that works for you,