Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
How to Get Emergency Contraception
Do I need a prescription to get emergency contraceptive pills?
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 aged 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.
The situation with emergency contraception in the United States is confusing: there are different types of emergency contraceptive pills available, with different regulations on how to buy them. Before you go, call the pharmacy first to make sure that they have EC in stock. If you have a prescription for 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 $40, including next-day shipping.
If you want to use your insurance coverage to get EC, you can still get a prescription from a licensed health care provider in order to get Levonorgestrel Tablets or ella (click here for a description of when you might want to use ella instead of progestin-only EC). While some providers – like Planned Parenthood clinics – may have emergency contraception on hand and can give you the pills directly, you will often also need to visit a pharmacy to fill the prescription just like you do with other medications. You can also use this online prescription service to purchase ella.
Laws in some states also allow pharmacists to provide emergency contraceptive pills directly to women of all ages without requiring a doctor's prescription (although not every pharmacist is doing it). These agreements may not apply to ella, so call first.
To find the nearest licensed health care providers, including pharmacists, providing emergency contraception in the US, try searching our database.
For a more detailed academic review of the medical and social science literature about improving women’s access to emergency contraception, click here .