The rules and regulations governing emergency contraception (EC) are changing. In June 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved unrestricted sales of one brand of emergency contraception. It changed the requirements for two others. 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. (4)
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. (6)
The sooner you get EC, the more likely it is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Despite sometimes being called “the morning-after pill,” you can take most forms of EC 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 health care provider, it is still effective up to five days after unprotected sex. (2)
Where is emergency contraception available?
Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) is available over the counter at drugstores and at some family planning clinics. As of August 2013, you can purchase Plan B without age restrictions or having to show identification to verify your age. (2)
Generic versions of Plan B (My Way, Next Choice One Dose, and two-dose levonorgestrel tablets) are available without a prescription for women age 17 and up. Women under 17 still require a prescription for these generic options. (2)
ella (ulipristal) is available by prescription only. Your health care provider or a family planning clinic can write you a prescription for ella. You can also get a prescription online through the pill’s website. Once you have a prescription, you can get it filled online or at a local pharmacy. (2)
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 age 17 and older. FPHS does not ship next-day delivery, so you may not want to use this option if you need the EC quickly.
An important note:
Do not purchase EC from any website not associated with a health care service or other trustworthy company. Some online outlets sell fraudulent medicine, and these pills can be dangerous to your health.
Do I need a prescription?
You do not need a prescription to buy Plan B One-Step. You only need a prescription to buy My Way, Next Choice One Dose, and generic levonorgestrel tablets if you are younger than 17. Women of all ages will need a prescription for ella and traditional birth control pills. You can get one from your health care provider, a county health department, or a family planning clinic. You can also get a prescription for ella through an online consultation on the company’s 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.
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 over the counter without verifying their age. You will need to be able to verify your age if you want to purchase My Way, Next Choice One Dose, or levonorgestrel tablets, however. All three are available without a prescription to women over 17 and with a prescription to women under 17. (6)
Do I need my parents’ consent?
No, you do not need your parents’ consent to purchase EC. Before you meet with a health care provider, ask if your discussion will remain confidential. If not, you may want to seek out another health care professional or clinic 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 levonorgestrel tablets are about $35 to $45. You can order one dose of ella for next-day delivery for $40 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 co-pay if you have insurance. (1)
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 insurance.