Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes called “the morning-after pill,” is birth control that significantly reduces the chances of becoming pregnant if taken soon after sex. It may prevent a pregnancy before it occurs. It has no effect on an existing pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is safe and effective, and works best when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Most types of EC can work up to three days after sex, and some prescription products can be taken up to five days after sex.
Most forms of emergency contraception are available on pharmacy shelves, without a prescription, to anyone of any age. However, anti-choice groups have long run a coordinated misinformation campaign to confuse people about EC—with one false claim being that it causes abortion. Emergency contraception does not cause abortion, but many remain confused about the difference between EC and medication abortion.
It’s important for every patient to understand their options for emergency contraception before they need it. That’s one of the reasons why doctors should talk with patients about EC at their annual checkup.
All patients should have access to emergency contraception when they need it, without judgment or delay.