Tips for Callers Looking for Emergency Contraception
If you are looking for emergency contraception, chances are you are feeling worried – maybe even panicked. But remember: by trying to prevent pregnancy when you’re not ready or able to have a baby, you are acting responsibly. You deserve to get the information and services you need and to have your questions about emergency contraception answered. The following "tips" can help you make the most out of your calls once you’ve located a provider near you.
There are currently several brands of emergency contraceptive pills that may be available in the United States. 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. Be sure to call the pharmacy first to be find out which brands of EC are in stock, and find out how much they cost - prices can vary quite a lot from store to store. For a comparison of the EC pills available in the US, click here.
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 next-day shipping.
ella is more effective than Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice or Levonorgestrel Tablets, because it works closer to the time of ovulation. If you think you might have had sex near that time of ovulation, or if it has been more than 3 days since you had unprotected sex, it's a good idea to use ella if possible. However, because ella is a newer product, it may take a while for pharmacies to routinely stock it.
Here are some tips for when you call about EC:
Calling the pharmacy:
- Find out which brands of EC are in stock. It's best to ask by name ("Do you stock ella,
Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice or Levonorgestrel Tablets?" rather than "Do you stock emergency contraception?") Remember that to purchase ella, you will need to get a prescription.
- Find out how much it costs. EC can cost anywhere between $35 and $60 (or more) over the counter. The generic products (Next Choice One Dose, My Way and Levonorgestrel Tablets) generally cost about 10-15% less than Plan B One-Step, although the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step is offering a $10 coupon.
Calling the doctor or clinic:
If you would like to use ella, you need a prescription regardless of your age. If you want to use your insurance to get EC covered, you will most likely need a prescription, and can only buy ella or the two-pill generic Levonorgestrel Tablets with a prescription.
- Be aware you might not get to see the provider you called about. Some health care facilities have more than one clinician who will prescribe or dispense emergency contraception. If the specific person listed in the database is unavailable, ask if someone else can prescribe emergency contraception (you can get a prescription from a medical doctor (MD), nurse practitioner (NP), certified nurse-midwife (CNM) or physican assistant (PA)). You may also find that some providers will only see you if you are already one of their patients. If a provider cannot help you for whatever reason, be sure to ask for a referral. You can also check with other providers listed on the directory.
- Be ready to ask to talk to someone else if necessary. Although each provider in our directory says they prescribe or dispense emergency contraceptive pills, the staff person who answers the phone may not know much about emergency contraception or that their office or pharmacy provides it. It might help if you explain where you got their telephone number. If not, ask if it is possible to speak to a nurse, doctor, or pharmacist. If that still doesn't work, try the directory again, and please let us know (by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can follow up.
- Be clear about what you need and feel free to ask questions. Don't be surprised if the person answering the phone does not say the words "emergency contraception" or "the morning after pill" if you do not ask for it by name. Staff may simply assume you know what you're looking for. However, you should feel free to ask them any questions you may have about emergency contraceptive pills or about what will happen when you come in for an appointment. In our experience, providers are often happy to take the time to give more information when asked.
- Be prepared to answer basic questions about your medical or sexual history. By learning certain things about you, the provider can give you the most appropriate information and services. They might ask you about:
- The date your last menstrual period started.
- When you had sex without using contraception, your birth control failed, or you were made to have sex against your will.
- If that was the only time since your last period that you had sex without using birth control.
- Whether you have had a pelvic exam in the past year.
- Find out if you can take care of everything over the phone. If you need a prescription (if you want to use ella or use your insurance to cover EC), some clinicians can phone in a prescription for emergency contraceptive pills to your local pharmacist. Other clinicians may ask you to come into the office for a physical exam (even though there’s no medical need for one).
- Check into costs. The fees for getting emergency contraceptive pills vary, so be sure to ask how much a visit will cost and whether there is a “sliding” fee scale (based on your income). When we surveyed providers listed in our directory for , the average cost was $63, but the fees ranged from free to $250. Emergency contraception services tend to cost less at Planned Parenthood clinics — averaging $47, with fees ranging from free to $123. Similarly, if you live in a state that allows pharmacists to provide emergency contraceptive pills directly to women of all ages, you can typically get a prescription from your pharmacist for under $50. If you have insurance, you may want to check to see if it covers emergency contraception.