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Menstrual & Women's Health Information

Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle - What occurs during the menstrual cycle, common menstrual cycle problems, and first periods.

Premenstrual Syndrome - Information on Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), including symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments.

Breast Self-Exams - Information on breast self-exams (BSE), including why a breast self-exam is performed, and what to look for during a BSE.

Birth Control Methods - Available options and related information.
Emergency Contraception - Information on emergency birth control and how it works.

Pap Tests - Information about pap tests (also called pap smears), including why they are performed, and how often to have a pap test.

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Emergency Contraception



Search which daily birth control pills can be used as Emergency Contraception Worlwide

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills ("morning after pills"), both of which contain the same kinds of hormones found in many daily birth control pills. You can safely use emergency contraception even if you've been told you shouldn't use "the pill" every day.


The first type of emergency contraceptive pill contains a hormone called progestin (learn more about these emergency contraceptive pills). This is the only type of pill available specifically for emergency contraception in the United States (the brand name is Plan B). In other countries, you can find several progestin-only emergency contraceptives and daily birth control pills. Plan B and other progestin-only pills are the most effective emergency contraceptive pills, reducing your risk of getting pregnant by 89% (What does that mean?). You are also less likely to have side effects if you use these pills for emergency contraception.

The second type of emergency contraceptive pill uses both progestin and a hormone called estrogen (learn more about these "combined" emergency contraceptive pills). Many brands of the daily pill can be used for emergency contraception in the United States (find out which ones here). (A specific combined morning after pill is no longer available in the United States because the company that made the one approved here called Preven has stopped selling it). In many other countries, you can find both combined emergency contraceptive pills and daily pills. These pills cut your chances of getting pregnant by 75% (What does that mean?), and you are more likely to experience side effects like nausea and vomiting.


  • Some people call emergency contraceptive pills "morning after pills," but you don't have to wait until the morning after. You can take the pills right away or use them up to five days after sex if you did not use birth control, you think your birth control failed, or you were forced to have sex. (Wondering if you really could get pregnant? Find out here.) Also, the sooner you take emergency contraceptive pills, the better they work.
  • You can use pills labeled for emergency contraception or certain brands of daily birth control pills to prevent pregnancy after sex. (Find out which ones here).

For a more detailed academic review of the medical and social science literature about emergency contraception, click here .



"The most common method of emergency contraception is the "Yuzpe" method, named after a Canadian gynecologist. This method involves taking a specific number of birth control pills 12 hours apart. It is thought to work in two ways. The first is to render the inside lining of the uterus inhospitable to the egg. The microscopic egg passes out of the body unnoticed. This method also may block ovulation so that the ovary does not release an egg at all. Therefore, although the Yuzpe method may prevent an egg from being released, there are some cases where an egg is already fertilized and is prevented from implanting in the uterus. This may have personal or religious implications for the patient considering this method. As this method is quite safe, any woman who is not already pregnant can use this method within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. Women taking other medications or being treated for medical problems should always discuss new medications with their doctor.

All medications have potential side effects. The Yuzpe method can cause nausea in some women, so you may wish to ask your physician or health care provider for an anti nausea medication just in case. You should expect a menstrual period within 21 days of taking the pills, and if one does not occur then there is a chance the medication did not work and you are pregnant. In this case a thorough evaluation is in order to rule out pregnancy. An important point is that even after taking emergency contraception you should strongly consider resuming, or starting, regular contraception, as emergency contraception is not nearly as effective as the regular use of birth control.

...the Yuzpe method of emergency contraception can theoretically prevent almost 2 million unplanned pregnancies each year in the United States alone. Experts predict that increased public knowledge of this method will lead to about 800,000 fewer medical abortions each year. Hopefully increased knowledge of emergency contraception will prevent many unplanned pregnancies."

D. Ashley Hill, M.D.
Associate Director
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Florida Hospital Family Practice Residency
Orlando, Florida