Is it too late to take emergency contraception?
Originally Published: February 10, 2012
Accidents such as these certainly happen and can be quite distressing. Plan B, a popular type of emergency contraception (EC), is a very effective method of pregnancy prevention, yet you are concerned you are stretching the time limit for its effectiveness. Well, you are in luck.
It’s true that Plan B is more likely to work if you take it very soon after unprotected sex. It is best within the 72-hour window, about 89% effective. But it does not expire after 72 hours — it can work for as long as five days after having unprotected sex. The exact effectiveness that many days after is not fully known, partially because there are many other factors besides when the Plan B was taken, such as age or regularity of periods, that may influence Plan B's effectiveness. But you will be taking Plan B just after the 72-hour window, so you may still fall within that 89% time period.
You were wanting to go to a clinic in order to get Plan B for free, but many are not aware that Plan B is available over-the-counter at drug stores, as long as there is a pharmacist present, and as long as you are 17 years of age or older (16 and under still requires a prescription). A pharmacist is required to answer any questions you have about Plan B. If you do go to a pharmacy, it would be important to inform the pharmacist how long it’s been since the unprotected sex. This may inform which medication s/he will dispense to you. Plan to bring a driver’s license or other proof of age.
Depending on the pharmacy you use, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, Ella,and Levonorgestrel Tablets generally cost anywhere from $35.00 to $60.00 in the United States. Also, check the Plan B site as they frequently offer coupons. Your clinic may offer free services and free EC, in which case waiting for the clinic to open may make sense financially. But if the clinic will charge you even a small fee for the visit, it may be worth going directly to the pharmacy, not only because you could get your Plan B more quickly, but also because you could bypass any fee you’d have to pay at the clinic to see a health care provider. Additionally, some clinics will call in EC prescriptions for you to bypass the visit. A final option in the future may be to ask your health care provider to write you a prescription that you can fill on your own and have on hand in case it happens again. That way, you’ll already have the pills at home and can take them much sooner after unprotected sex.
There are other “morning after” pregnancy prevention options out there. Another very effective method is the intrauterine device, or IUD. For more information about where to get the morning after pill, call the Emergency Contraception Hotline from anywhere in the United States at 1.888.NOT.2.LATE (1.888.668.2.5283). You can also find more information at Emergency Contraception (NOT-2-LATE.com).