Emergency Contraception: Everything You Need to Know, Plus How to Save

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex, or if you suspect your regular birth control has failed. Here’s how each type of emergency contraception works:

  • Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg: This is typically what people refer to as the “morning-after pill”, dubbed so because, well, it’s usually taken after a night with unprotected sex. Levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B and other over-the-counter (OTC) ECPs, is a hormone that can stop or delay ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary) and help prevent fertilization. The one-time pill has to be taken within three days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, and is 75%-89% effective depending on how soon it’s taken.
  • ella (ulipristal): ella is the newest kind of EC. It’s also a pill, but it contains ulipristal, which targets certain hormone receptors and prevents ovulation for up to five days after unprotected sex. ella lowers the chances of pregnancy by 85%, and is just as effective on day one as it is on day five, which is seen as a major advantage over Plan B and other levonorgestrel ECPs. However, ella may not be the best option if you’re on hormonal birth control because it will make the birth control less effective afterwards. ella requires a prescription.
  • ParaGard copper IUD: This might seem like a drastic measure, but it’s a good option for women who cannot take hormones or are concerned about their weight making Plan B less effective. The copper in the IUD (intrauterine device) creates a toxic environment for the sperm, lowering the chances of pregnancy by 99.5% if placed within five days of unprotected sex. It’s the most effective type of EC, but the device and procedure can be expensive if you don’t have insurance. Read more about getting an IUD here.

Which levonorgestrel morning-after pill is best?

Preventeza, available for $46.99 on its website, joins a long list of morning-after pill options — but they all work the same and are equally as effective. This means choosing a brand comes down to how easy it is to get it and how much it costs.

The levonorgestrel ECP is available under the following brands:


*As of July 6, 2018, Preventeza is currently available in a “buy one, get one or give one free” deal as part of a marketing campaign to support women’s reproductive rights. This offer is available through the Vagisil website, and standard ground shipping is free. Find out more here.

Need it fast?

If you need emergency contraception urgently, your best bet is to go to a local drugstore or family planning center. Plan B or other levonorgestrel ECPs are available over-the-counter, so you do not need a prescription.

You can get ella with free overnight shipping for $67 from PRJKT RUBY. One of their physicians will write you a prescription based on your answers to their online questionnaire.

Need it just in case?

Emergency contraception should be used just for that — emergencies. It’s not recommended to use emergency contraception in place of regular birth control. That being said, you may find having the ECP on hand will bring you peace of mind, especially since Plan B and other levonorgestrel ECPs work better the sooner it’s taken. This gives you an opportunity to look around and see how you can get it cheaper, even if it takes a few more days for shipping.

Morning-after pills have a shelf life of a few years, so it’s important to keep track of the expiration date on the box when you purchase it. Also be aware that third-party online retailers may be selling expired or soon-to-expire emergency contraception.

Need it cheap?

If you’re not in the pinch for emergency contraception, you probably have some time to shop around. Here are tips on how to save on ECPs, especially if you don’t have health insurance.

  • Call your local family planning center: Community or free health clinics will often provide ECPs free of charge. Planned Parenthood will give you three free packs of ECPs per year. After that, they’ll write you a prescription that you can use with a GoodRx coupon (more below).
  • Look for generics: Plan B is the very first ECP to come out and remains one of the most expensive options, but there are generic alternatives, like Take Action and My Way, available at lower prices. You can find them both online and at local drugstores.
  • Use a GoodRx coupon: With GoodRx, levonorgestrel 1.5 mg costs $16.54 and ella costs $39.54. But in both cases, you’ll need to get a prescription first and bring it to a pharmacy counter to redeem the coupon. More on how to do that here.

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