Island Sexual Health Society Be informed, not surprised!

Emergency contraception options

Emergency contraception works to prevent pregnancy after intercourse. The closer to the intercourse that Emergency contraception is used, the more effective it will be in preventing pregnancy. Emergency contraception does not provide protection from any STIs. There are currently 2 types of contraception that can be used as emergency contraception:

  1. Emergency Contraceptive Pills
  2.  Copper IUD.

1. Emergency contraceptive pills

Emergency contraceptive pills are also known as:

  • Morning After Pill (MAP)
  • Plan B (a brand of pills)
  • EC or ECP

These hormone pills are an emergency method of birth control that females can use afterunprotected intercourse or after a birth control failure such as a condom breaking or a missed pill, in order to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception is very safe.

It’s a good idea for both males and females to keep a dose on hand for emergencies. Morning after pills are not suitable for regular birth control use because they are less effective than other methods, and do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

How to get emergency contraception

Anyone (both males and females) can get emergency contraception for immediate use or to keep on hand. You do not need a prescription. You can find it:

  • right here at ISHS (four locations in Greater Victoria, BC)
  • over the counter (either on the shelf in the condom section or you may need to ask for it at the counter) at most drug stores
  • at other sexual health clinics
  • from your doctor
  • from a walk-in clinic

The Not-2-Late website can help you find emergency contraception, in the US and Canada.

You can buy up to 3 packages of ECP before you need it, “just in case” from us. If you have purchased Plan B in advance but sure to check to expiry date before you use it.

ECP (progestin only forms) must be taken within 5 days of unprotected intercourse (120 hours).

  • The sooner you take emergency contraceptive pills, the more likely they will successfully prevent pregnancy from occurring.
  • Emergency contraception pills are most effective if you take it within 72 hours.

How does it work?

Most ECP contains the hormone progestin (levonorgestrel) and works in a number of  ways:

  • delaying or preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg
  • altering the cervical mucus that acts as a barrier to sperm and prevents the sperm and egg meeting (fertilization)
  • changing the lining of the uterus to make it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant
  • by slowing the sperm and egg as they move down the tube

How effective is it?

It is difficult to measure exact effectiveness of emergency contraceptive pills. the package insert states that it is 89% effective, however some researchers believe the effectiveness may be somewhere around 70%. We do know it is definitely better than nothing.

ECP may not work if:

  • a fertilized egg has already implanted in your uterus before taking the pills
  • too much time passed between unprotected intercourse and taking the pills

ECP does not work if you are already pregnant, it does not cause abortion.

How much does it cost?

We charge $17 per box (single complete dose with prices subject to change) but pharmacies generally charge more.

There are currently two types of emergency contraceptive pills available in Canada:

  • Plan B, progestin-only method
  • Yuzpe (Ovral) method, containing both estrogen and progestin (not available at ISHS)

Plan B/ is  is slightly more effective, and is much less likely to cause nausea and is the ONLY type available at ISHS!

Most females tolerate Plan B well; however it can cause minor side effects in some women such as fatigue, breast tenderness, headache, and abdominal pain. rarely women feel nauseated after Plan B.

There is no evidence that Plan B would harm a developing fetus should it be taken accidently during early pregnancy.

ECP will not protect you from pregnancy if you have unprotected sex after you take it.

2. Copper IUD

The copper IUD can be inserted within 7 days after intercourse and is 99% effective against pregnancy. One of the other benefits of using Copper IUD as emergency contraception is that it can remain in the uterus for up to 5 years. This option is not available as a drop-in service and is only available with an appointment at our Quadra Street location.

Call us for an appointment if you are interested in pursuing this option.