Before you take emergency contraceptive pills (ECP), be sure you understand both the benefits and the possible problems associated with their use. This fact sheet lists the danger signs you should be aware of.
If you think you need emergency contraception and CHWS is closed, don't wait! You can obtain ECP without a prescription at several local pharmacies. They are listed at the end of this article.
In order to obtain ECP from CHWS, you will need to make an appointment with one of the providers. Call extension 1555 as soon as possible after the unprotected intercourse. Anything you discuss will be kept confidential.
If you have any questions as you read this, ask your health care provider during your scheduled appointment. If you have questions or concerns afterwards, call ext. 1555 and ask to speak to your provider or the triage provider. If you have an urgent question when CHWS is closed, call the Multicare 24 Hour Consulting Nurse line at 253.403.7778.
Here are the facts: ECPs are hormonal pills (similar to birth control pills) that may help prevent pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse. That means either your birth control method failed or you failed to use birth control. The pills keep the ovary from releasing an egg, thicken the cervical mucus or change the lining of the uterus in such a way that a fertilized egg may not attach and develop into a pregnancy. The pills should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, preferably within 72 hours. The sooner you take them, the more effective they will be in preventing pregnancy.
ECP is currently dispensed at CHWS for about $17. An appointment with one of the medical providers is required. (Price is subject to change).
FDA-approved information is printed on the ECP packaging. You should read the information and ask questions during your CHWS visit about anything you do not understand.
These emergency pills prevent pregnancy about 76-99% of the time, depending on when the unprotected intercourse occurs relative to your menstrual cycle. However, this method fails to prevent pregnancy in some cases because:
A sensitive urine pregnancy test should be done before taking ECP if you think there is a chance you could already be pregnant (your last period was late, light, or short, or if you feel pregnant.) You should not use these pills if you think you are already pregnant. However, there have been no reports of serious side effects for the woman or the fetus in women who are already pregnant when taking ECP, or when the pills fail and pregnancy occurs.
Your next period may be early or late, or could be lighter or heavier than normal. If you use ECP more than once in a monthly cycle, the chance of an irregular period next time will be greater.
ECP are not designed to be used as birth control. It is vital to consider a reliable form of birth control if you are sexually active and at risk for unintended pregnancy. After using ECP, many women start birth control pills immediately. Ask your CHWS health care provider for information about birth control pills and/or other forms of birth control during your ECP appointment.
Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including a serious infection known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause infertility. You and your partner can be tested confidentially at CHWS for STDs.
If you vomit within 2 hours of taking your ECP the dose should be repeated. Ask your CHWS health care provider for a second dose.
Call CHWS and ask to speak with your provider or have your provider return your call if you have questions or think you have a problem.
If you think you need emergency contraception and CHWS is closed, don't wait! You can obtain ECP without a prescription at some local pharmacies. The cost may be as high as 50 dollars. Remember: the sooner you take ECP after unprotected intercourse, the more likely you are to prevent pregnancy. Not all pharmacies carry ECP. The following is a list of local pharmacies and other providers who can dispense or prescribe ECP:
Please call ahead to check pharmacy hours and to make sure medication is in stock. For more information on emergency contraception, for a more complete listing of providers or for driving directions to off campus providers, please call 1.888.NOT.2.LATE or visit their website at: http://ec.princeton.edu/index.html.