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Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) is used to prevent pregnancy after penetrative intercourse (penis in vagina) when no protection was used or when worried that the method of birth control used didn't work. There are two main types: a one-time pill, sometimes called the ‘morning after' pill or a copper IUD.

The EC pill contains one hormone called progesterone and is given as one pill single dose, which should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It can be taken up to five days after sex, but sooner is better.  Plan B and Ella are the two brands available in British Columbia. 

The EC pill is available without a prescription at many pharmacies, or from a doctor, a walk-in clinic, youth clinics, STI clinics, and Options for Sexual Health clinics. It is usually free in youth clinics.

After taking the EC pill it is common for menstruation (ie. period) to be a few days early or late. If you haven’t had a period within 21 days of taking the pill, you should get a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests can be purchased at a pharmacy and done at home.  Some clinics will also provide them.  If the result is positive you should visit a health care provider to discuss options.

If you missed birth control pills, or had problems with your patch or ring, then talk to a health care provider about how to get back on schedule. It is a good idea to use a condom for seven days after taking emergency contraception.

The EC pill helps lower the chances of getting pregnant, but it is not as effective as many other types of birth control. If you are having regular sex, talk to your health care provider about a more reliable form of birth control.

The copper IUD is an ongoing method of birth control.  An IUD is the most effective way to prevent a pregnancy.  You need to see a health care provider who is trained in IUD insertion. 

Use our clinic finder to find clinics in British Columbia that offer emergency contraception.


Options for Sexual Health – Emergency Contraception
HealthLink BC – Emergency contraception information
Island Sexual Health Society – Emergency contraception options
Vancouver Coastal Health – Youth Clinics in Lower Mainland
SexandU.ca – Emergency contraception information
ED-IUD Rapid Access Network – Find a health care provider who can insert an IUD for emergency contraception

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birth control, contraception, pregnancy
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