What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC) available at SHS is either "Next Choice One Dose" (1 pill containing the progesterone Levonorgestrel, 1.5 mg) or "Ella" (1 pill containing a non-hormone, Ulipristal acetate 30 mg). Both Next Choice One Dose and Ella can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse by delaying ovulation or altering the lining of the uterus.

When should EC be used?

EC can be used if:

  • the primary form of contraception fails
  • if you have unplanned sex, or
  • if you are forced to have unprotected sex

Next Choice One Dose is FDA approved to be taken within 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex.  Ella is FDA approved to be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse. The sooner EC is taken after unprotected sex; however, the more effective it is. Used within 12 - 24 hours, EC reduces the risk of pregnancy by up to 95%. However, the risk of pregnancy approximately doubles with every 12 hour delay in EC treatment.

EC is helpful, but it should not replace regular birth control.

Emergency contraception can prevent most pregnancies that would result from unprotected intercourse, but it is still not as effective as other contraceptive methods, and does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI's).  For overweight and obese women,  "Plan B" (or generic "Next Choice One Step") use was not associated with a significant reduction in pregnancy rates compared with that expected with no medication.  Therefore, for overweight or obese women, "Ella", a prescription emergency contraception, is recommended and is avaiable by making a same day appointment in Women's Health.

EC cannot cause an abortion.

If you are already pregnant, EC will not harm the fetus.

Where to get EC:

Student Health Services (SHS) offers EC:  "Next Choice One Dose" sells for $20 at the cashier.  Please make an appointment if you want "Ella".  To make an appointment, please call Women's Health Services at Student Health for a same day Women's Health Nurse appointment between 9-5, Monday-Friday, or Primary Care when Women's Health is closed. After hours, you can get EC at your local pharmacy without a prescription, if you are 17 or older.  Please print and sign the form before you come to buy "Next Choice One Dose" at the cashier in Student Health.  Forms are also available at the cashier. 

Pharmacy: After hours, you can get Next Choice One Dose at the pharmacy counter of your local pharmacy without a prescription if you are 17 or older.  You will always need a prescription for Ella, and only if under 17 for Next Choice One Dose. With Penn Student Health Insurance (PSIP), with a prescription, you can obtain a limited number of doses of EC without a copay. Please contact your provider or make an appointment to obtain the prescription(s).