Your Care Instructions
Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy. This is also called the morning-after pill. You can use it if you have unprotected sex or if you think your birth control method has failed. For example, it can be used after:
- A condom breaks.
- You forgot to use your normal method of birth control.
- Sexual assault (rape).
When you get your emergency contraception, use it right away. You may use this method up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. The sooner you start the pills, the more likely they are to prevent pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, the pills won't harm the fetus.
Emergency contraception pills do not work as well as other types of birth control. If it is important to you to prevent pregnancy, talk to your doctor about a regular method of birth control that will work for you.
You can get emergency contraception without a prescription at most drugstores.
This information focuses on using progestin-only pills that are packaged specially for use as emergency contraception. These are often called "morning-after pills." There are other methods of emergency contraception. But they are not covered in this information.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- You can use emergency contraception pills up to 5 days after unprotected sex. But they work best if you take them right away or within 48 hours.
- Take the pills exactly as prescribed or as the directions say.
- If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pills, call your doctor for advice. You may need to repeat the dose.
- If you continue to be sexually active, make sure you use a reliable and effective birth control method regularly. Also make sure you use latex condoms every time you have sex. Use them from the start to the end of sexual contact. Use a female condom if your partner doesn't have or won't use a condom.
- If your next period does not start within 3 weeks after you use emergency contraceptive pills, call your doctor for a pregnancy test. Or you can take a home pregnancy test.
- You should never feel pressured to have sex. It's okay to say "no" anytime you want to stop.
- It's important to feel safe with your sex partner and with the activities you do together. If you don't feel safe, talk with an adult you trust.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have a headache, dizziness, or belly pain that is severe or that lasts longer than 1 week.
- You vomit within 2 hours of taking the pills. You may need to repeat the dose.
- You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through your usual pads or tampons each hour for 2 or more hours.
- You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have new pain or cramping (or a new unusual symptom).
- You think you might be pregnant.
- You have a bad-smelling vaginal discharge.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter M526 in the search box to learn more about "Emergency Contraception for Teens: Care Instructions".
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine