Emergency Contraception

You may have heard emergency contraception referred to as the Morning-After Pill, or brand names such as Plan B One-Step®and ella.® Emergency contraception is a term used for drugs taken after sex with the intent to prevent pregnancy. There are different brands of emergency contraception available, but the most common in America are Plan B One-Step and ella. If you have questions regarding emergency contraception, you can schedule an appointment with one of our peer counselors to discuss your questions and concerns.

Plan B One-Step®

Many confuse emergency contraception with the abortion pill. It is intended to prevent pregnancy after a known or suspected contraceptive failure, unprotected intercourse, or forced sex. It contains large amounts of levonorgestrel, a progestin hormone found in some birth control pills. Plan B One-Step may work by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting by delaying ovulation. It won’t disrupt an implanted pregnancy, but may prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus.1

Plan B One-Step consists of one pill taken up to 72 hours after sex.2 Side effects may include changes in your period, nausea, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headache and dizziness.3 If our period is more than a week late, you may be pregnant from a prior sexual encounter. Plan B One-Step should not be taken during pregnancy or used as a routine form of birth control.4

There is evidence that Plan B One-Step use may increase the risk for ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening condition.5 Women who have severe abdominal pain may have an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and should seek immediate medical attention. It is reported that Plan B One-Step may prevent an average of 84% of expected pregnancies.6

ella®

ella is an FDA-approved emergency contraceptive for use within 5 days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “the week-after pill”. It is estimated that taking ella will reduce the number of expected pregnancies from 5.5% to 2.2%.7 Pregnancy from previous sexual encounter should be ruled out before taking ella.

It is to be used only once during a menstrual cycle; ella may reduce the chance of pregnancy by preventing or postponing ovulation.8 It also may work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which is a very early abortion;9 ella is a chemical cousin to the abortion pill. Both share the progesterone-blocking effect of disrupting the embryo’s attachment to the womb, causing its death.10 The most common adverse reactions of ella include headache, nausea, stomach (abdominal) pain, menstrual cramps, fatigue, and dizziness.11 Women who experience abdominal pain 3 to 5 weeks after using ella should be evaluated right away for an ectopic pregnancy. Much is unknown about the drug, including its effect on women:

  • who are under 18 or over 35 years of age;12
  • taking with other hormonal contraception;13
  • pregnant from a previous encounter;14
  • taking ella repeatedly during the same cycle;15 or
  • taking while breast-feeding.16

 

You can call us to discuss your situation with our trained staff. All our peer counseling services are free and confidential, so you have nothing to lose.


Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central Texas offers consultations and accurate information about all emergency contraceptives; however, we do not offer or refer for abortion services.  The information presented on this website is intended for general education purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional counseling and/or medical advice.


[1] lan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Mechanism of Action, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[2] Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Indications and Usage, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[3] Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information: Clinical Trials Experience, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[4] Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Contraindications and Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Indications and Usage, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[5] Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Ectopic Pregnancy, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[6] Plan B One-Step Prescribing Information:  Clinical Studies, Barr Pharmaceuticals, last modified August 2009, http://www.planbonestep.com/pdf/PlanBOneStepFullProductInformation.pdf.

[7] ella Prescribing Information:  Open-Label Study, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[8] ella Prescribing Information: Mechanism of Action, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[9] Donna J. Harrison and James G. Mitroka, Defining Reality:  The Potential Role of Pharmacists in Assessing the Impact of Progesterone Receptor Modulators and Misoprostol in Reproductive Health, The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 45 (January 2011):  115.

[10] Ibid.

[11] ella Prescribing Information: Adverse Reactions, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[12] ella Prescribing Information: Open-Label Study, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[13] ella Prescribing Information: Fertility Following Use, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[14] ella Prescribing Information: Contraindications, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[15] ella Prescribing Information: Repeated Use, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

[16] ella Prescribing Information: Nursing Mothers, Watson Pharma, last modified April 2012, http://pi.watson.com/data_stream.asp?product_group=1699&p=pi&language=E.

Emergency Contraception