Combined Emergency Contraceptive Pills ("Morning After Pills")
Combined emergency contraceptive pills ("morning after pills") contain two types of hormones, estrogen and progestin, which are commonly found in daily oral contraceptives. You can use many brands of daily birth control pills to prevent pregnancy after sex.
Doctors recommend that you take your first dose of combined emergency contraceptive pills within 120 hours, followed by a second dose 12 hours later. Each dose contains at least 100 mcg of estrogen and .50 mg of progestin, so the number of pills will depend on which daily oral contraceptive you are using for emergency contraception. You can use combined pills for emergency contraception even if your doctor recommends against using oral contraceptives for your regular birth control (For more details about using these pills, click here. While you have a lot of choices of combined pills you can take for emergency contraception, remember that not every oral contraceptive can be used this way (find out why here).
Combined emergency contraceptive pills reduce your risk of pregnancy by about 75%. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that 25 percent of women get pregnant using these morning after pills. It just means that this type of emergency contraception prevents 75% of the pregnancies researchers would expect to happen when a woman doesn’t use birth control, her contraception fails (like the condom breaks or falls off), or she is made to have sex against her will. Usually, if 100 women have sex without using birth control one time during the second or third week of their monthly menstrual cycle, about 8 of them will get pregnant. But if those same women also use combined emergency contraceptive pills, only two will get pregnant. And the sooner you start taking emergency contraception after sex, the better it works. Even so, you should know that progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills are more effective.
About half of women who use combined emergency contraceptive pills experience nausea and about one in 5 vomits. If you throw up within an hour after taking a dose, you may need to take that same dose again. One way to reduce the chances you’ll get sick to your stomach is to use an over-the-counter anti-nausea drug an hour before you take emergency contraception. In the United States, you should look for the long-acting medicine meclizine, which is sold both as a generic and under the brand names Dramamine II and Bonine. Keep in mind, fewer women experience nausea and vomiting after taking progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills.
To learn which brands of combined emergency contraception and daily birth control pills can be found in the United States or any other country, try using our up-to-date database. Or take a look at this table for quick information about the brands of oral contraceptives in the United States that can be used as morning after pills. You can also have a health care provider insert a Copper-T IUD up to five days after sex to prevent pregnancy.