Emergency Contraception

Take a deep breath

Worried you might have had sex that put you at risk for pregnancy? Maybe you missed a couple birth control pills, or the condom broke, or you just didn’t use anything, or maybe you were sexually assaulted. This might be nerve-wracking, but you have options-starting with the emergency contraception pill.

What’s it for?

The emergency contraception pill (the “morning after pill” or Plan B) is for preventing pregnancy after you’ve had unprotected sex that could get you pregnant, or if your primary method of birth control failed. It’s not meant to be a primary form of birth control - it’s more expensive and less effective than many other methods.

How does it work?

When taken up to 72 hours after the sex that could have gotten you pregnant (the sooner the better!),  the emergency contraception pill can stop the ovaries from releasing an egg, or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. The morning after pill will do nothing if an egg has already been fertilized and implanted. The emergency contraception pill can prevent pregnancy, but cannot cause an abortion. Unfortunately, the morning after pill is less effective for people weighing 165-176 pounds, and ineffective for people weighing over 176 pounds. If that applies to you, or if you want a more lasting form of birth control, you might consider a copper IUD. When a copper IUD is inserted up to five days after the sex that could have gotten you pregnant, it can also act as emergency contraception. This option is only available through a physician appointment.

Where can I get it?

In Quebec, you can get the emergency contraception pill over the counter from pharmacies.

How much does it cost?

The cost of the emergency contraception pill differs depending on the pharmacy.  There are two costs associated with it: a ‘consultation fee’, where the pharmacist assesses your need for the pill, and the cost of the emergency contraception pill itself.  The ‘consultation fee’ can be waived if you have a prescription in advance, which you can obtain from one of the nurses at McGill Student Health by coming to the drop-in clinic.   

What if it doesn’t work?

While the emergency contraceptive pill can be very effective if taken within 24 hours, it decreases in efficacy after that time. If you take emergency contraception and still become pregnant, you have options. You might want to consider becoming a parent, terminating the pregnancy, or putting the child up for adoption. It’s OK to be unsure, and it’s OK to know exactly what you want. Feel free to make a nursing appointment  if you want support in making the choice that is right for you.