Emergency Contraceptive Pill

What is ECP?

  • ECP is an emergency contraception medication used to prevent pregnancy after sex when you didn’t use birth control or the birth control didn’t work (for example, the condom broke).
  • Some people call it “the Morning After Pill”.
  • You can get ECP at pharmacies and community health clinics. You don’t need a prescription.

Who can take ECP?

  • ECP is safe for almost every female body. You should NOT use ECP if you know you are pregnant (mainly because it won’t work).

When might I want to take ECP?

  • You had penis-vagina sex but weren’t using any birth control, or you think that the birth control you used may not have worked.
  • You missed two or more birth control pills in a pack and you have been having penis–vagina sex with no other form of birth control.
  • You were more than a week late for your scheduled birth control shot.

Note: ECP can also be used if you were forced to have penis–vagina sex. If this happens, you might want to call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 204-786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565 to speak to a counsellor for support options. 

When should I take ECP?

  • Swallow the pill together as soon as possible after the sexual activity.
  • You do NOT need to take any more pills later on. It’s a good idea to rest after.

What will ECP do?

  • If taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, it will reduce the chances of pregnancy by about 95%.
  • If taken within 48 hours of unprotected sex, it will reduce the chances of pregnancy by about 85%.
  • If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it will reduce the chances of pregnancy by about 58%.
  • ECP may work up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
  • You can expect your period within 1-3 weeks of taking ECP. See your health care provider or a community health centre for a pregnancy test if you don’t get your period within 3 weeks.

What will ECP not do?

  • ECP will NOT prevent pregnancy all of the time.
  • ECP will NOT stop a pregnancy if you’re already pregnant.
  • ECP will NOT protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.

Are there any side effects?

Serious side effects are rare. Minor side effects could include:

  • Bleeding or spotting between periods.
  • Your period may come at a different time than usual .
  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) and vomiting (puking).
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain.
  • Headache or feeling tired.

If these symptoms last more than 2 days, contract your health care provider.

Can I take anything to stop feeling sick?

  • Most people don’t feel nauseous after taking ECP, but you can take a half or a whole anti-nausea pill 30 minutes before taking ECP to prevent vomiting (puking).
  • If you vomit within 2 hours after taking the pill, it might not work and you may need another dose. Talk to a pharmacist as soon as you can, to find out what to do.
  • You can contact a pharmacist or community health centre to get information.

Can I take ECP whenever I have condomless sex?

  • Use ECP as emergency contraception only. It is safe but difficult for your body to process.
  • If you are going to have penis-vagina sex, and you don’t want to get pregnant, use a more reliable method of birth control, such as birth control pills or condoms.

What if I take ECP and don’t know that I’m pregnant?

  • ECP will not end an existing pregnancy.
  • There is no evidence that ECP will harm a fetus.

What should I do after I finish taking ECP?

  • Use a reliable birth control method that suits you, if you are having penis-vagina sex.
  • If you have birth control pills, you can start a new pack right away after taking ECP. You do not have to wait for your period to start.
  • If you don’t get a period within 3 weeks after taking ECP, you may be pregnant and should consider a home pregnancy test, or getting a test done at your health care provider, teen clinic, or community health centre.
  • You can go to a community health clinic or talk to a public health nurse about birth control, STI tests, a Pap test, pregnancy test, abortion, adoption, parenting, or other health issues.

What if I get pregnant despite taking ECP?

  • If you are pregnant, talk to a counsellor at a community health clinic or public health nurse right away.
  • Consider your options and make the choice that is right for you.

What if I can’t afford ECP?

  • ECP costs around $30-50.
  • If cost is an issue, try contacting your local community health clinic or women’s health centre. If you are under 22 years old you can also contact a teen clinic.

Where can I get more information?

  • From your health care provider, community health clinic, or public health nurse. If you need a regular health care provider, call the Family Doctor Finder at 204-786-7111 or toll-free at 1-866- 690-8260, or go to www.gov.mb.ca/health/familydoctorfinder.
  • From the Facts of Life On-Line: e-mail your questions to thefactsoflife@serc.mb.ca.
  • From a teen clinic if you are under 22 years old.

SERC believes that all individuals have the right to access unbiased sexual and reproductive health information and services. They must also have the opportunity to explore their values and attitudes in making informed choices that are most appropriate for them, and have those choices respected and supported. SERC supports and defends a pregnant person’s right to choose parenting, adoption, or abortion.

Developed in collaboration with Klinic Community Health and Literacy Partners of Manitoba 2007

Sexuality Education Resource Centre 2016