Emergency Contraceptive Pills “ECP” (also sometimes called the morning after pill)
- Plan B and NorLevo are the most effective types of ECP—it is most effective if taken within 72 hours (3 days) but they can be taken up to 5 days or 120 hours after unprotected sex
- The closer to the time of unprotected sex the more effective it is
- Between 60-89% effective in preventing pregnancy. It does not protect against STIs
How do ECP work to prevent pregnancy?
ECP works in a variety of ways:
- Delays or prevents ovulation
- Changes the fluids in uterus and fallopian tubes decrease sperm and ovum movement
- Thins uterine lining
- Thickens cervical mucus
What does ECP not do?
- ECP does not offer any protection against STIs. If you are concerned about STIs, you will need to go in for testing approx. 2 weeks following sex.
- ECP does not cause an abortion, it only works to prevent sperm and egg from meeting. If a pregnancy has already established, it will not end or alter that pregnancy.
- ECP does not provide any protection if you have sex after taking it. It is meant to be used after there’s a problem with another method of birth control such as a condom breaks, the regular birth control pill has not been taken as directed, or no method has been used.
- ECP does not make it difficult to become pregnant in the future. It is only a temporary method of back up birth control and it is not meant to be used on a regular basis.
When might not work?
- a fertilized egg has already implanted in your uterus before taking the pills
- too much time passed between unprotected intercourse and taking the pills
Health Canada states that these pills are less effective in users weighing 165 to 176 pounds (75-80 kg), and are not effective in users over 176 pounds (80 kg). Users who weigh 165 pounds or more are advised to ask a health professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, for advice on alternative methods of emergency contraception.
Where can I get ECP? Who can buy ECP?
- ECP can be bought without a prescription at most pharmacies, Island Sexual Health and Victoria Youth Clinic.
- Anyone (at any age) can buy ECP without anyone else knowing about it. If you buy it for someone else (like a girlfriend/partner friend) to take, you just need to give them the box with the 2 pills and the instructions.
How much does Plan B cost?
$17-40 per box (single dose). It is more expensive in pharmacies than at Island Sexual Health.
Are there any side effects from taking Plan B?
Most people don’t notice anything different. The side effects could be headache, breast tenderness, fatigue, light breakthrough bleeding, or slight nausea. There is only progesterone in Plan B or NorLevo so it does not cause the extreme nausea that other morning after pills may cause.
When will my period come after taking ECP?
- You should expect to have your period around the time you expect next it although sometimes ECP can make your period come a little bit earlier or later. If your period is more than a week late, you may want to take a pregnancy test.
If I take more than one box of ECP at a time, will it be more effective?
- No, taking more than a single dose will not make it more effective.
If I take ECP more than once, will it become less effective if I need to take it again?
- No, but remember it’s not meant to be used as a regular method of birth control only a backup method of birth control for situations when there has been a problem with another method or no method has been used.
If I have taken ECP and I am using the pill, patch, or ring should stop using the other methods?
- No, just continue using them as you normally would. ECP will just act as a backup to the other method.
If I have taken ECP today and I want to begin a regular method like the pill, the patch or ring, when do I start taking the regular method ?
- You should begin taking your regular method the day after you take ECP and use a back up method like condoms for the first 7 days.