What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC) available at SHS is either “EContra EZ” (1 pill containing the progesterone Levonorgestrel, 1.5 mg) or “Ella” (1 pill containing a non-hormone, Ulipristal acetate 30 mg). Both EContra EZ and Ella can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse by delaying ovulation or altering the lining of the uterus.

When should EC be used?

EC can be used if:

  • the primary form of contraception fails
  • if you have unplanned sex, or
  • if you are forced to have unprotected sex

EContra EZ is FDA approved to be taken within 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex.  Ella is FDA approved to be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse. The sooner EC is taken after unprotected sex; however, the more effective it is. Used within 12 – 24 hours, EC reduces the risk of pregnancy by up to 95%. However, the risk of pregnancy approximately doubles with every 12 hour delay in EC treatment.

EC is helpful, but it should not replace regular birth control.

Emergency contraception can prevent most pregnancies that would result from unprotected intercourse, but it is still not as effective as other contraceptive methods, and does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).  For overweight and obese women,  Econtra EZ ( ie  “Plan B” or generic “Next Choice One Step”) use was not associated with a significant reduction in pregnancy rates compared with that expected with no medication.  Therefore, for overweight or obese women, “Ella”, a prescription emergency contraception, is recommended and is avaiable by making a same day appointment in Women’s Health.

EC cannot cause an abortion.

If you are already pregnant, EC will not harm the fetus.

Can’t you just take a bunch of your normal birth control pills instead of paying $20 for emergency contraception?

  • Only certain brands of birth control pills can be used in increased doses as emergency contraception.  Review the Emergency Contraception Website for information about what brands of pills can be used and how to use them.

Where to get EC:

Student Health Services (SHS)  sells EC by a nurse appointment. EC is available anytime SHS is open. EC is available to all PENN students regardless of gender. Call 215-746-3535 for a Nurse appointment.

Pharmacy: After hours, Econtra EZ is available at the pharmacy counter of your local pharmacy without a prescription. Ella requires a prescription.

Plan ahead: Next time you have an appointment at SHS, ask your provider for a prescription for EC. Most health plans cover EC without co-pay (no charge) at a pharmacy. You can also schedule a brief appointment in GYN care to get a prescription “for future use”.

EC can be used if: