Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
Types of Emergency Contraception
What brands of emergency contraception are available in the United States?
In the U.S., Plan B One-Step is available without age restrictions to women and men (check the family planning aisle). One-pill generics (My Way and Next Choice One Dose) will soon be available on the shelf for consumers aged 17 and older, but this change has not taken effect yet; women 16 and younger still need a prescription. Two-pill generics (Levonorgestrel Tablets) are still available only behind the counter without prescription if you are 17 or older; younger women need a prescription.
There are several brands of emergency contraceptive pills that may be available in the United States: ella, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, My Way,and Levonorgestrel Tablets. You can also use many kinds of daily birth control pills to prevent pregnancy after sex.
ella contains ulipristal acetate, and is sold by prescription only. Progestin-only pills, such as Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, My Way and Levonorgestrel Tablets, contain the hormone levonorgestrel. Plan B One-Step is available on the shelf in the family planning aisle, with no age restrictions. You should not be asked for ID to buy Plan B One-Step, and both men and women can purchase it. Your other options for emergency contraception include taking a different dose of your daily birth control pills (most of which contain both progestin and estrogen, so they are called “combined” pills) or having a health care provider insert an IUD within five days after your birth control failed, you had sex without using contraception, or you were made to have sex against your will.
ella is more effective than progestin-only pills (like Plan B One-Step), particularly if you are close to ovulation. In clinical studies, the effectiveness of ella did not decline over a 5-day period after unprotected sex, while progestin-only EC may be ineffective on the fifth day. However, because each individual woman may not know exactly how close she is to ovulating, it is important to take EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Both ella and progestin-only pills are more effective and have fewer side effects than combined emergency contraceptive pills.
Don't take more than one kind of EC. The active ingredient in ella may counteract the effect of levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B One-Step and Next Choice One Dose. All of the brands listed here may be effective when used within 120 hours after unprotected sex, but should be taken as soon as possible.
There are different regulations on how to purchase the different emergency contraceptive pills available in the United States, so it can be a bit confusing. If you want to use ella, call the pharmacy first to be sure that it is in stock.
Plan B One-Step is sold on the shelf (check the family planning aisle) with no restrictions. That means anyone can buy it without having to show ID. Plan B One-Step generally costs about $40-50.
- Soon, the generic one-pill products (Next Choice One Dose and My Way) will be available on the shelf next to Plan B One-Step, but you need to be 17 to buy them. Be prepared to show ID to buy these products. These generics generally cost about $35-45.
- The generic two-pill products Levonorgestrel Tablets are still available only at the pharmacy counter. Women and men aged 17 or older can buy them without a prescription. If you are 16 or younger, you need a prescription.
- ella is sold by prescription only, regardless of age. You can also order ella through an online prescription service for $42, including shipping.
In some states, women of all ages can get progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills directly from a pharmacist, without having to get a prescription first. These agreements may not apply to ella, so call first to find out. Use our database to find health care providers, including pharmacists, near you who offer emergency contraception.