Emergency contraception (also known as postcoital contraception and the morning-after pill) refers to the use of drugs or a device as an emergency measure to prevent pregnancy. Women who have had recent unprotected intercourse, including those who have had a failure of another method of contraception, are potential candidates for this intervention. It is intended for occasional or back-up use, not as a primary contraceptive method for routine use. (See "Overview of contraception".)
Health professionals should inform women about use of emergency contraception and the available options. This discussion should include the advantages and disadvantages of each method, including efficacy and side effects. Males should also be aware of emergency contraception as a method of preventing pregnancy. In the United States, one in nine reproductive aged women used emergency contraception at least once between 2006 and 2010 .
As discussed above, candidates for emergency contraception are women who have had recent unprotected intercourse (including sexual assault), or who have had a recent possible failure of another method of contraception. A detailed list of potential indications is shown in the table (table 1).
Three emergency contraceptive drugs are marketed in the United States: Plan B One-Step, Plan B, and ella.
- Plan B One-Step consists of a single dose of 1.5 mg levonorgestrel. On April 30, 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sale of this product without a prescription to women 15 years of age and older (proof of age by government issued photo or non-photo identification is required) .
- Plan B, also available from generic manufacturers, consists of two doses of levonorgestrel (0.75 mg in each tablet) taken 12 hours apart. It is available without a prescription to women and men aged 17 years and older, and by prescription to younger women.
- Ella consists of a single dose of ulipristal and is only available by prescription.