Emergency Contraception

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes referred to as "the morning after pill," is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse (such as sex without contraception, or when a contraceptive fails). EC contains the same hormones used in birth control pills. The most widely used formulation of EC is sold under the brand name "Plan B."

How does emergency contraception work?

The hormones in EC pills work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation) and by thickening the cervical mucus, which interferes with the ability of sperm to reach an egg that might already have been released. Emergency contraception is a form of birth control; it is not an abortion pill and cannot trigger an abortion.

How effective is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is quite effective. Although it can be used up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse, the sooner it is started, the more likely it is to be effective. If started within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, it is 89% effective; only 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant after using EC during that time period. Of course, emergency contraception doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Also, it shouldn't be used as a form of ongoing birth control as there are other forms of birth control that are more effective. If you take EC and your period is a week late you should follow up with a pregnancy test.

How safe is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is very safe. It has been used for more than 30 years, and during that time, no serious complications have been reported. The most common side effect is nausea, which usually goes away within 24 hours. Also, if used frequently it may cause menstrual periods to become irregular. If you use EC and are concerned about any symptoms you experience, contact a provider at the Health Center at 617-521-1020. You will be able to reach a provider even when the Health Center is closed.

How can I get emergency contraception?

The Simmons Health Center offers emergency contraception. Call during our hours of operation for an appointment. If you are a Simmons undergraduate living on campus, EC is free of charge, as your visit is covered by the student health fee paid by all undergraduates (not including Dix scholars). If you are a Dix Scholar or a graduate student who has not paid the health fee, you will be asked to pay at the time of your appointment.

If you need EC during a time the Health Center is closed, or if you are away from campus, you can purchase EC without a prescription at any Massachusetts pharmacy.

For more information about EC or to make a Health Center appointment, please feel free to contact us at (617-521-1020). The following websites also contain additional information about EC: