Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Fact Sheet and Instructions for Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP)

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 find emergency contraception (EC) in the vending machine across from the entrance to CHWS. You can also obtain EC from local pharmacies. If CHWS is open, come in to receive EC from a provider where it is less expensive, and you can talk to a provider. If you have questions, you can call CHWS and speak with your provider of the triage nurse. If you have questions after hours, you can call the Multicare 24 Hour Consulting Nurse line at 253.792.6411.

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.

EC is currently dispensed in the vending machine for $25. CHWS dispenses EC for $17. Please come to CHWS if you need EC during business hours.

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 fertilized egg has already implanted in the uterus.
  • Too much time has passed since unprotected intercourse.
  • The drug itself fails.

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.

Some reactions to these pills (in the first 24 hours) may include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache/dizziness
  • Breast tenderness.

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 is 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 a 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.

Schedule a follow-up appointment at CHWS four weeks after taking your ECP if:

  • You have not had a normal period.
  • You think you may be pregnant.
  • You have any early signs of pregnancy (nausea, fatigue, breast swelling, or breast tenderness.)

How to take these pills (Plan B):

  1. You will be given Plan B pills during your scheduled appointment at CHWS.
  2. You should take one pill at the same time within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. The sooner, the better.

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.

Call CHWS and ask for triage, or if CHWS is closed, go to the emergency room if you have any early pregnancy danger signs, such as:

  • Sudden pain, pain that lasts, or strong cramps low in your abdomen, usually on only one side, with or without bleeding.
  • Fainting or dizziness that lasts more than a few seconds. This could be a sign of bleeding inside your abdomen.

Possible miscarriage:

  • Heavy bleeding, sometimes with clots, pieces of tissue, and/or bad cramps
  • A period that is heavier and longer than normal
  • Pain in your abdomen.

When CHWS is closed:

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 prevent pregnancy. Not all pharmacies carry ECP. The following is a list of local pharmacies and other providers who can dispense or prescribe ECP:

  • Safeway
    • 2411 N Proctor, 253.759.9889
    • 1112 S M Street, 253.572.7753
    • 2637 N. Pearl, 253.759.9271
    • 6201 6th Ave 253.566.9217
  • Bartell Drugs
    • 3601 6th Ave S, 253.761.1248
  • Allenmore Pharmacy
    • 1901 S Union, 253.383.5519
  • Planned Parenthood
    • 813 MLK Jr Way, 253.779.3900
  • Fred Meyer
    • 4505 S. 19th, 253.752.9110
  • Westgate Family Medicine
    • 2102 N. Pearl, 253.759.8331
  • Community Health Care
    • 1102 S. I St., 253.597.3813
  • Cedar River Clinics
    • 1401 MLK Jr Way, 253.473.6031

Please call ahead to check pharmacy hours and to make sure medication is in stock. For more information on emergency contraception, for a 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.