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Facts about Emergency Birth Control Pills—True or False

  1. Several types of emergency birth control pills are available.

    A: True. Plan B® is the only specifically packaged product of emergency birth control pills. Yet, it is also possible to use different doses of many regular brands of oral contraceptives.
  2. Emergency birth control is a type of birth control that must be used before a person has sex.
    A: False. Emergency birth control pills are used after a person has unprotected sexual intercourse.
  3. Emergency birth control pills can reduce a woman's risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent when taken within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sexual intercourse.

    A: True. Emergency birth control pills are up to 89 percent effective in preventing a pregnancy, depending on the type of emergency birth control used, how quickly the pills are begun, and when during a woman’s menstrual cycle the sex occurred. Emergency birth control pills are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex. But they are still effective, although somewhat less so, when taken up to 120 hours after sex.
  4. There are several reasons why a young woman might use emergency birth control pills.

    A: True.
    Emergency birth control pills may be used if a couple has had unprotected sexual intercourse. They also work if a condom breaks; if a woman didn’t take her regular birth control pills or was late for a shot; or if her diaphragm slips out of place during sex. Women can also use emergency birth control pills if they have suffered rape or sexual assault.
  5. Plan B® is the same medication as RU-486, 'the abortion pill.'

    A: False.
    Women take RU-486 (also called mifepristone or the “abortion pill”) to end a pregnancy. It is an entirely different medication from Plan B®.
  6. If you take emergency birth control pills when you’re already pregnant, they can cause abortion.

    A: False.
    Emergency birth control pills work by preventing pregnancy, not by causing abortion. Emergency birth control pills will not harm an existing pregnancy.
  7. Plan B is now available without a prescription from a doctor for all women.

    A: False.
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the sale of Plan B® without a prescription for women (and men) ages 18 and over. Women under age 18 still need a prescription.
  8. Emergency birth control pills don’t cause any side effects.

    A: False.
    Some women taking emergency birth control pills may feel nauseous, dizzy, or tired. Some women vomit and/or have a headache or sore breasts. These side effects are temporary and should last less than a day or two. There are no medical risks in taking emergency birth control pills.
  9. Emergency birth control pills may be harmful to teenage women.

    A: False.
    Emergency birth control pills are a safe and effective option for teenage women. In fact, research shows that emergency birth control pills are safer than aspirin. Furthermore, they do not cause birth defects or abortion if a woman is already pregnant when she takes them.
  10. Emergency birth control pills protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

    A: False.
    Emergency birth control pills only prevent pregnancy, not STIs. Using condoms every time a person has intercourse is the best way to prevent STIs.
  11. A 16-year-old has the legal right to obtain emergency birth control without her parent's permission.

    A: True.
    In South Carolina, teens age 16 and older have the right to obtain emergency birth control without parental consent or notification. Most Planned Parenthood clinics offer confidential services to teens of all ages.
  12. Emergency birth control pills can only be obtained from a doctor.

    A: False.
    There are many ways to obtain a prescription. Call the National EC Hotline at 1-800-NOT-2-LATE to locate the nearest doctor or health clinic; call 1-800-230-PLAN to find the nearest Planned Parenthood health center. To find the nearest health care provider who will provide prescriptions for emergency birth control pills to young women, visit
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