Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
Types of Emergency Contraception
What is the difference between emergency contraception, the "morning after pill", and the "day after pill"?
Actually, there is no difference. Emergency contraceptive pills are often called "morning after pills" and sometimes even "day after pills" because you can use them after sex to prevent pregnancy. Most of the time, when someone mentions “emergency contraceptive pills,” “morning after pills,” or the “day after pill,” they are talking about using the same hormones found in regular daily oral contraceptive pills to reduce your chances of becoming pregnant if you had sex without using contraception, you think your birth control failed, or you were made to have sex against your will.
Even though there’s no difference between what these terms refer to, calling emergency contraceptive pills “morning after pills” or “day after pills” can be misleading because you can use them right away – and you may have up to 120 hours (five days) after sex to take the pills and still prevent pregnancy, depending on how close you are to ovulating (need to get EC now in the U.S? Click here).
EC should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Sperm can live in a woman's body for 5 days after sex. Research shows that ulipristal acetate (ella) can be taken up to 5 days without a decline in effectiveness, and progestin-only EC (like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, My Way or Levonorgestrel Tablets) may be effective only through the 4th day after sex. However, keep in mind that ella is effective closer to the time of ovulation than progestin-only EC (but neither pill works after ovulation has occurred). You may not know exactly how close you are to ovulating; therefore, it is important to take EC as soon as possible no matter which pill you use. It may take time to get a prescription and fill it, or find a pharmacy that carries EC, so call your doctor or pharmacy as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Another option if you are want to use ella is to order it through this online prescription service for $40, including next-day shipping.
Some people get confused and think that emergency contraceptive pills, or morning after pills, are the same as “abortion pills”. They aren’t. Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy before it begins, and works primarily or perhaps exclusively by delaying or inhibiting ovulation; it does not cause an abortion. (Find out more about how the “morning after pill” differs from the abortion pill here.)