Nothing quite kills a nice sex afterglow like the stab of fear slicing through you when you realize you forgot to take your birth control or use protection and your partner came inside you. When this happens, you might freak out about how to not get pregnant. It's easy to jump online for advice and come across message boards or forums posting worst-case scenarios about unwanted pregnancies. Before too long, you might be worrying about how you’re going to raise a child in your freshman dorm room.
If you’re not ready for (or don’t even want) kids and didn’t use protection during sex, Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast, says, “You have several options, and accessibility depends on where you’re located.” There are medical solutions that help address the issue of an accidental or unwanted pregnancy before it even happens. However, none of these methods are proven to work 100% of the time without fail.
As you read on, keep in mind that these are just a few options available to you and that you should consult your doctor before making any type of medical decision. Do your research to determine whether these methods may work for you, and talk to your doctor about more reliable forms of contraception to save yourself the fear and anxiety of this happening again in the future.
1. Take A Morning-After Pill Containing Levonorgestrel
Emergency contraceptive pills containing levonorgestrel are available over the counter at local pharmacies or at health centers and community clinics, Dr. Jess says. Levonorgestrel is in a class of medications called progestins, and it can stop your ovaries from releasing an egg, therefore delaying or pausing your ovulation. Pills with levonorgestrel include Plan B One Step, Take Action, and My Way, among others, and are a form of hormonal contraceptive. Dr. Jennifer Caudle, family physician and associate professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, says, "It's important to seek out emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected sex, because the window of effectiveness varies by brand and timing." Dr. Jess agrees, saying, “This emergency contraception works most effectively if you take it right away.” A pill like Plan B works best when taken within three days after unprotected sex, according to Planned Parenthood.
There are a few drawbacks to taking a pill like Plan B. Julia Huff, a women's health nurse practitioner at New York University, previously told Elite Daily that Plan B is "much less effective in people who have a BMI over 25, which is the majority of Americans for sure." Also, some emergency contraception may not work with certain medications or nutritional supplements, could tamper with your cycle, and is pretty expensive (Plan B costs around $40 to $50, while Take Action and My Way cost between $15 to $45). Some people may also experience side effects of using the pill. These include "nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and fatigue," according to Dr. Caudle.
2. Take A Morning-After Pill Containing Ulipristal Acetate
This is another method of hormonal emergency contraception in pill form. There is only one brand that makes a pill containing ulipristal acetate, and it’s called ella. Ulipristal acetate has a different chemical makeup than Plan B or a pill containing levonorgestrel, but it is also a progestin and works the same by delaying or preventing ovulation. This pill requires a prescription, which means you’ll need to visit your doctor in order to get it. According to Dr. Jess, you can also get it online with next-day delivery.
This is the most effective morning-after pill, according to Planned Parenthood. It can be taken up to five days after having unprotected sex, and it’s just as effective on the fifth day as it is on the first. It’s also effective for people who have a BMI above 25, unlike Plan B. Huff previously told Elite Daily, “[ella] is believed to be effective in people up to a BMI of 35.” However, Dr. Jess says, "It may not be the best option if you’re on hormonal birth control (e.g. the pill), but talk to your medical practitioner about the best option for you." That’s because, according to Planned Parenthood, hormonal birth control can diminish the effectiveness of ella.
There are some other drawbacks to taking ella, as well. For one, it’s expensive, costing over $50 at a pharmacy and even more if you order it online, according to Planned Parenthood. As far as side effects, you may experience an upset stomach when you take it, and may find your next period after taking the pill is abnormal.
3. Get A Copper IUD Inserted
While it’s more invasive than the morning-after pill, a copper IUD like Paragard is a great form of emergency contraception. A copper IUD is a device inserted into the uterus and acts as long-term, non-hormonal birth control. Dr. Jess previously told Elite Daily, “The copper changes the way the sperm cells move to reduce the likelihood of their making it to the egg." According to the Mayo Clinic, you can have an IUD in place for up to 10 years and can have your doctor remove it at any time.
“You’ll need to see you medical practitioner to have this inserted, and research suggests that it’s 99% effective,” Dr. Jess says. Planned Parenthood says a copper IUD is the best overall method of emergency contraception, as long as you get one within five days of unprotected sex. OB/GYN Dr. Tristan Emily Bickman previously told Elite Daily, “[The] IUD is very effective as contraception [because] there is no human error to factor … They are reliable, convenient, safe, and easy to insert and remove.”
A copper IUD could cost you between $0 and $1,300, according to Planned Parenthood, because it’s dependent on the type of health insurance you have. If you don’t have insurance, you can contact Planned Parenthood for more information on programs available to help pay for an IUD. There are some side effects of a copper IUD as well. Dr. Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN, previously told Elite Daily that IUDs can come with “painful insertion … intermenstrual bleeding, irregular periods, [and] cramping.”
None of the above methods are proven to work 100% of the time without fail, so no matter what you decide, make sure to talk to your doctor about the options available to you.
This article was originally published on