Have you had unprotected intercourse or birth control failure and want to prevent pregnancy? The morning-after pill, also called emergency contraception, can help. This complete guide tells you everything you need to know about getting the morning-after pill.
The morning-after pill is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. It works by delaying ovulation so an egg is not released. It needs to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse for the best chance of working.
Read on to learn all about how and where to get the morning-after pill, how it works, and more.
How Much Does the Morning After Pill Cost?
The cost of the morning-after pill ranges from about $10-$70 depending on the brand, where you get it, and whether you have insurance.
Here are some typical costs:
- At the drugstore: Generic brands usually cost $20-$45. Brand name Plan B One-Step costs around $40-$50.
- From healthcare providers: Planned Parenthood charges around $10-$45 based on income. With insurance, your copay could be as low as $0.
- With insurance: Your out-of-pocket cost may be lower, depending on your coverage. Many plans cover it completely. Call yours to check.
- Online: Online services like Nurx and Simple Health charge around $10-$20.
Planned Parenthood mentions that Plan B One-Step usually costs about $40-$50, while other brands like Next Choice One Dose, Take Action, and My Way generally cost between $15 and $45.
AfterPill, a generic brand, is available online for $20 plus $5 for shipping.
GoodRx notes that the cost of brand-name Plan B ranges from $38 to $50, and generic versions may cost as low as $10 with their service.
CVS states that Plan B typically costs between $40.00 and $50.00.
There are also ways to get the morning-after pill for free or at a very low cost if you cannot afford it:
- Ask Planned Parenthood about financial assistance or sliding scale fees based on income.
- Search for coupons on sites like GoodRx to use at the pharmacy.
- Some states like Washington allow pharmacists to prescribe it for free.
- Check if your city has a free or reduced-cost emergency contraception program.
What Exactly is the Morning-After Pill?
The morning-after pill is an emergency contraceptive you can take after unprotected intercourse. Brand names include Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way, and more. These pills all contain a hormone called levonorgestrel that prevents pregnancy.
Some key facts about the morning-after pill:
- It should be taken within 3-5 days of unprotected intercourse. The sooner you take it, the better it works.
- It does not cause an abortion. It works by delaying or preventing ovulation.
- It is safe and effective. Serious side effects are rare.
- It is not the same as the abortion pill.
- It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How Effective is the Morning-After Pill?
If taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, the morning-after pill is up to 89% effective at preventing pregnancy. The sooner you take it, the better it works:
- Within 24 hours: 95% effective
- 24-48 hours: 85% effective
- 48-72 hours: 58% effective
After 72 hours, it rapidly becomes less effective. But you can still take it up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse.
Where Can I Get the Morning-After Pill?
You have several options for getting the morning-after pill quickly:
Buy It Over-the-Counter
You don’t need a prescription to take Plan B. Brands like Plan B One-Step are available over-the-counter without a prescription to anyone of any age. You can get it at drugstores like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and more. It’s kept behind the pharmacy counter, so you need to ask for it.
Get it Online
You can order the morning-after pill online through services like Nurx and Simple Health. After a short consultation, it will be delivered discreetly to your door.
Visit Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics offer the morning-after pill. You do not need an appointment. Call your nearest clinic to ask about costs and hours.
See Your Doctor
Make an urgent care appointment with your doctor or OB/GYN. They can prescribe the morning-after pill and may have samples available.
No matter where you get it, take the morning-after pill as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse for the best chance of preventing pregnancy.
How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?
The morning-after pill contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that prevents pregnancy. Here’s how it works:
- It delays or prevents ovulation so an egg is not released. No egg means no chance of fertilization.
- It may also work by thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.
- If fertilization does occur, it may prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
Importantly, it does NOT cause an abortion or harm an existing pregnancy. It only works if taken before ovulation and fertilization occur.
When Should I Take the Morning-After Pill?
Take the morning-after pill as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse. It works best the sooner you take it:
- Within 24 hours
- 24-48 hours
- 48-72 hours
- Up to 5 days
You have a 3-5 day window after intercourse to take it. But don’t wait longer than that, or it may not work as well. Set a phone alarm to remember.
You can take it anytime during your menstrual cycle if you’ve had unprotected intercourse. It still works after ovulation.
Are There Side Effects to Plan B Morning-After Pills?
The morning-after pill is very safe. Serious complications are rare. Possible Plan B side effects include:
- Breast tenderness
- Bleeding between periods
These side effects usually go away within a few days. If they concern you, call your doctor.
About 50% of women who take the morning-after pill have some nausea. Taking anti-nausea meds an hour before can help.
Does Health Insurance Cover It?
Many insurance plans cover the morning-after pill fully or with a low copay ($10-$30). But some may not. Call your insurer to find out.
If you’re uninsured, discounts and financial assistance are available from Planned Parenthood, coupons, and state/city programs.
You can also pay cash at the pharmacy or order online. While not free, it costs less than having a child.
What If Plan B Doesn’t Work?
If you take the morning-after pill as directed but still don’t get your period within 3 weeks, take a pregnancy test. The pill fails about 8% of the time.
If you are pregnant, you have options. Talk with your healthcare provider about your choices.
To prevent pregnancy going forward, start a regular birth control method like the pill. Use condoms too for STI protection.
The morning-after pill is very effective emergency contraception if taken soon after unprotected intercourse. This complete guide told you how to get it, its effectiveness, side effects, and other key facts. Remember to take it ASAP after intercourse for the best chance to prevent pregnancy.