CHOICES : A Sourcebook of Reproductive Health Care in Maryland

Emergency Contraception

Also known as the ‘morning after’ pill, emergency contraception (EC) is a large dose of oral contraception. It is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. The hormones in EC prevent ovulation and the thickening of cervical mucus. The mucus blocks sperm, preventing fertilization. It is important to note that EC is a form of birth control, not abortion and if you take EC and are already pregnant, the EC will not terminate the pregnancy. EC should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse.

EC is a back-up form of contraception and should not be used as routine birth control. EC does not prevent against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it is important to get tested for STIs after unprotected intercourse and to practice safe sex by using a condom.

The following EC brands are available at some pharmacies:

Available for all ages without a prescription and is 89% effective up to 72 hours
1. Plan-B One-Step®: One pill

Available for people 17 or older without a prescription and 16 or younger with a prescription and is 89% effective up to 72 hours
2. Plan B®: Two pills taken 12 hours apart
3. Next Choice®: Two pills taken 12 hours apart, is the generic and cheaper version of Plan B®
4. Next Choice One Dose®: One pill is the generic and cheaper version of Plan B®

Available for all ages with a prescription and is effective up to 120 hours
5. ella®: Most pharmacies do not stock ella® but it can be obtained through an online prescription service and mailed next-day.

80% of Maryland pharmacies stock EC. However, many pharmacies inconsistently stock ECs, or, in some cases, will refuse to stock ECs at all. Furthermore, there is a growing problem of pharmacists refusing to fill women's legal birth control prescriptions or disperse EC. At this time, Maryland does not have legislation in place to ensure that pharmacists always dispense these important and lawful medications.

Another option for EC is an IUD (see Birth Control page for more information about using an IUD as regular birth control). A copper IUD inserted within five days of unprotected sex can be one of the most effective forms of EC.

Approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended; half of those ends in abortion. Access to EC reduces the need for abortion.

For more information or to find a provider in your area, check out our sourcebook's family planning guide. Some abortion clinics provide EC; you can find a list of abortion providers here and contact them about availability. You can also call the EC hotline at (888) NOT-2-Late or visit
A publication of the NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Fund
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