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Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is:

  • Birth control used after unprotected sex.
  • Safe and very effective.
  • Available without a prescription, if you are 18 or older, at health clinics and drug stores.

Emergency contraception does not terminate an existing pregnancy or protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

What is emergency contraception (EC)?
EC is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex. EC should only be used as a backup method when your regular form of birth control has failed or you have had sex without birth control.

How does it work?
EC contains hormones found in many birth control pills. The hormones prevent pregnancy by stopping a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs and thickening her cervical mucus to block sperm from joining an egg.  EC does not terminate an existing pregnancy. 

The most effective type of EC is emergency contraception pills. Plan B® is the only pill available in the United States. Plan B® contains two pills. Take the first pill as soon as possible (within 72 hours after unprotected sex) and the second pill 12 hours later.

Will I have any side effects?
After using EC, some women may experience breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, dizziness, headaches, change in period, nausea, abdominal pain and tiredness.

How well does it work?
Only 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant after taking EC within 72 hours after having unprotected sex. EC works even better if taken within the first 24 hours. EC should not be taken in place of regular birth control as it is not as effective.

How do I get it?
Plan ahead. You can get emergency contraception before you need it. If you are 18 or older, you can get EC at a pharmacy without a prescription. If you’re 17 or younger, you’ll need a prescription from your doctor.

Find out where to get EC at The Emergency Contraception website (Espanol) or by calling 1-888-NOT-2-LATE. If you have been sexually assaulted, information and EC is available at hospital emergency rooms in Washington.



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(360) 397-8000 ext. 7205

Russian contact information

(360) 397-8000 ext. 7214