Family Planning

Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (birth control) is a medication that sexually active women can take after they have had a birth control failure or emergency. The medication is a high, but safe, dose of the hormone found in most birth control pills.

Emergency Contraception

  • CAN prevent pregnancy AFTER unprotected sex.
  • Is NOT the abortion pill.
  • Works best when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex or birth control failure.

Emergency contraception works in the exact same way that birth control pills work. If a woman already has an established pregnancy that includes a fertilized egg that has already implanted itself into the uterine wall, this medication will NOT disturb that pregnancy. It will have no harmful effect on the mother or her developing embryo.

Emergency contraception, known as Plan B, is now available from the pharmacist without a prescription for women 17 years of age, or older. Women who are 16 years of age or younger must have a prescription from their healthcare provider to receive the medication.

A woman or a couple can purchase Plan B from a pharmacist without a prescription to have on hand just in case she ever has an emergency situation. The medicine has the best chance of preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours after a birth control emergency. Taking it as soon as possible after unprotected sex is very important. The medication has a 4 year shelf life and costs about $25 - fairly inexpensive for a 4 year back-up plan to help prevent pregnancy.

Remember that although Plan B is highly effective, it is NOT as effective as regularly using a reliable form of birth control. Plan B also offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or HIV/AIDS.

For more information on emergency contraception, visit

Do you know the difference

between emergency contraception (Plan B) and the medical abortion pill (Mifepristone)?

Learn more

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The Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition is a community partnership housed within the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.

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Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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