Emergency Contraception: Where Is It Available?
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Emergency Contraception: Where Is It Available?

The changing rules of emergency contraception

Highlights

  1. Plan B One-Step and its generic forms are available to anyone for purchase without restriction.
  2. Ella (ulipristal) is available by prescription only.
  3. You do not need your parents’ permission to purchase emergency contraception.

The rules and regulations governing emergency contraception (EC) have changed a lot. In June 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved unrestricted sales of one brand of emergency contraception, Plan B. In most states, women and men have access to several different brands and types of emergency contraception, but who can purchase them and where can vary from state to state.

What types of EC are available?

Two types of EC are available: emergency contraception pills (ECPs) and intrauterine devices (IUDs). ECPs are the easiest to access and most widely available. A doctor has to place an IUD in your uterus.

The sooner you get EC, the more likely it is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Despite sometimes being called “the morning-after pill,” EC can be taken immediately after sex or several days later. It’s most successful if taken within 72 hours (three days) after intercourse, but EC can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. If you decide to have an IUD placed by a healthcare provider, it is still effective if placed within five days after unprotected sex.

Where is emergency contraception available?

Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) is a progestin-only contraceptive available over the counter at drugstores and at some family planning clinics. As of March 2016, you can purchase Plan B without age restrictions or having to show identification to verify your age.

Generic versions of Plan B (My Way, Next Choice One Dose, and Take Action) are also available for purchase without restriction. The package may say it’s intended for use by women ages 17 and older, but it can be purchased by anyone without the need to provide identification.

Ella (ulipristal) is available by prescription only. Your healthcare provider can write you a prescription for ella, or you can get a prescription at a family planning clinic. You can also get a prescription online through the ella website. Once you have a prescription, you can get it filled online or at a local pharmacy.

Not all pharmacies carry each type of EC. Be sure to call your pharmacy to see if they stock the EC you want before going. 

The T-shaped intrauterine device (IUD) can also be used as EC. Women who have an IUD placed within five days of unprotected sex can still prevent pregnancy. However, not all women are good candidates for an IUD. Women with certain STDs, infections, or a history of specific cancers should not get an IUD. Your doctor will write you a prescription for an IUD and have it at the clinic when it’s time to place the device.

In some cases, birth control pills can be used as EC, too. Your doctor will give you instructions on using this method. Birth control pills are available at pharmacies and family planning clinics.

Can I buy emergency contraception online?

Yes, you can buy some forms of EC online. Ella is one of them. Once you obtain a prescription from a doctor, family planning clinic, or the ella website, you can purchase ella through KwikMed, an online pharmacy.

You may also be able to purchase Plan B through the Family Planning Health Services (FPHS) of Wisconsin. However, EC is only available through FPHS for women ages 15 and older. FPHS does not ship next-day delivery, so you may not want to use this option if you need the EC quickly.

Do I need a prescription?

You do not need a prescription to buy Plan B One-Step, My Way, Next Choice One Dose, or Take Action. Women of all ages will need a prescription for ella and traditional birth control pills. You can get a prescription from your healthcare provider, a county health department, or a family planning clinic. You can also get a prescription for ella through an online consultation on their website.

You need a prescription for an IUD, but your doctor will acquire the IUD for you in time for your appointment to have the IUD placed.

Important note

Do not purchase EC from any website not associated with a healthcare service or other trustworthy company. Some online outlets sell fraudulent medicine, and these pills can be dangerous to your health. 

Do I need an ID?

You do not need to show identification to buy Plan B One-Step. Men and women of any age can purchase Plan B, My Way, Next Choice One Dose, Take Action, and other progestin-only treatments over the counter without restriction.

Do I need my parents’ consent?

No, you do not need your parents’ consent to purchase EC. Before you meet with a healthcare provider, ask if your discussion will remain confidential. If not, you may want to seek out another healthcare professional who will keep your health care needs private.

How much does it cost?

Plan B averages $40 to $50 per dose. My Way, Next Choice One Dose, and Take Action are about $35 to $45. You can order one dose of ella for next-day delivery for $67 through KwikMed. IUDs can be very expensive — between $500 and $1,000. Some brands of traditional birth control are available for free or with a small copay if you have insurance.

Your health insurance may cover the cost of all or part of your EC. Before you go to a pharmacy or clinic, call your insurance provider to verify which ECs are covered by your policy.

More Resources

A Woman’s Guide to Safe Sex Basics
Emergency Contraception and Safety
Know Your Options
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