heredago's blog

September 28, 2011

Which birth control pills can be used for emergency contraception in the United States?

Filed under: Uncategorized — heredago @ 19:54

There are nearly two dozen brands of pills that can be used for emergency contraception in the United States today. Four products are specifically approved and marketed here as emergency contraceptive pills: ella (which contains ulipristal acetate and is sold by prescription only), Plan B One-StepPlan B and Next Choice (which contain just the hormone progestin, and are sold over-the-counter to women and men 17 and older). You can also use a different dose of a number of brands of regular birth control pills. While these are not sold specifically as emergency contraceptive pills, they have been proven safe and effective for preventing pregnancy in the few days after sex. These daily birth control pills contain two hormones, progestin and estrogen.
Sometimes, emergency contraceptive pills (like regular birth control pills used as EC) are taken in two doses. You take the first dose as soon as possible (up to 120 hours after you have sex without using birth control, your birth control failed, or you were forced to have sex. You take the second dose 12 hours later (although being an hour or two early or late probably won’t make a difference in how effective the pills are). If you are using Plan B or Next Choice, you have the option of taking both doses at the same timePlan B One-Step contains the same amount of progestin as Plan B or Next Choice, but there’s only one pill to take. Keep in mind that progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills are most effective the sooner they are taken after sex. Emergency contraceptive pills have no long-term or serious side effects, and it is safe for almost every woman to use them.

Here are some other things to know about taking emergency contraceptive pills:

  • Don’t swallow extra pills. They probably won’t reduce your risk of pregnancy any more than the recommended dose for emergency contraception. But they will make it more likely you’ll feel sick to your stomach (one of the more common side effects).
  • If you feel sick to your stomach, it should be only mild nausea that goes away in a day or so.
  • If you throw up within an hour after taking the pills, call your health care provider. You may need to repeat a dose, and it might make sense to take some anti-nausea medication (Find out more about side effects here).
  • If you have any other symptoms you are worried about, contact your health care provider. Ask for an appointment right away if you have:
    • Severe pain in your leg (calf or thigh)
    • Several abdominal pain
    • Chest pain or cough or shortness of breath
    • Severe headaches, dizziness, weakness, or numbness
    • Blurred or loss of vision or trouble speaking
    • Jaundice (if you see a yellowish tint in the whites of your eyes, your skin, or your mucus membranes)
  • Your next period should start within the next month, although it might come a few days early or late (find out more here). If you don’t get your period by the time you expect it, you might consider getting a pregnancy test.
  • Start using a regular birth control method you think you’ll be able to use every time you have sex because that will be more effective than relying only on emergency contraception. And, if there’s any chance you could be at risk of sexually transmitted infections, use a condom.

The table below lists all of the brands of oral contraception available in the U.S. which you can use to prevent pregnancy in the few days after sex. For information about how to use a specific pill as an emergency contraceptive, click on the brand name in the table.

Looking for options for emergency contraceptive pills in another country? Click here.


Table 1. Oral contraceptives that can be used for emergency contraception in the United Statesa 

Brand Company First Doseb Second Doseb
(12 hours later)
Ulipristal Acetate per Dose (mg) Ethinyl Estradiol
per Dose (µg)
per Dose (mg)c
Ulipristal acetate pills
ella Watson 1 white pill Noneb 30
Progestin-only pills
Next Choice Watson 2 peach pills Noneb 1.5
Plan B Teva 2 white pills Noneb 1.5
Plan B One-Step Teva 1 whilte pill None 1.5
Combined progestin and estrogen pills
Aviane Teva 5 orange pills 5 orange pills 100 0.50
Cryselle Teva 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Enpresse Teva 4 orange pills 4 orange pills 120 0.50
Jolessa Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Lessina Teva 5 pink pills 5 pink pills 100 0.50
Levora Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Lo/Ovral Akrimax 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
LoSeasonique Teva 5 orange pills 5 orange pills 100 0.50
Low-Ogestrel Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Lutera Watson 5 white pills 5 white pills 100 0.50
Lybrel Wyeth 6 yellow pills 6 yellow pills 120 0.54
Nordette Teva 4 light-orange pills 4 light-orange pills 120 0.60
Ogestrel Watson 2 white pills 2 white pills 100 0.50
Portia Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Quasense Watson 4 white pills 4 white pills 120 0.60
Seasonale Teva 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.60
Seasonique Teva 4 light-blue-green pills 4 light-blue-green pills 120 0.60
Sronyx Watson 5 white pills 5 while pills 100 0.50
Trivora Watson 4 pink pills 4 pink pills 120 0.50


a ella, Plan B, Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are the only dedicated product specifically marketed for emergency contraception. Aviane, Cryselle, Enpresse, Jolessa, Lessina, Levora, Lo/Ovral, LoSeasonique, Low-Ogestrel, Lutera, Lybrel, Nordette, Ogestrel, Portia, Quasense, Seasonale, Seasonique, Sronyx and Trivora have been declared safe and effective for use as ECPs by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Outside the United States, about 100 emergency contraceptive products are specifically packaged, labeled, and marketed. Levonorgestrel-only ECPs are available either over-the-counter or from a pharmacist without having to see a clinician in 60 countries. In the U.S., Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are available over-the counter to women and men aged 17 and older. You can buy these pills by prescription if you are younger. ella is available by prescription only.
b The labels for Plan B and Next Choice say to take one pill within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, and another pill 12 hours later. However, recent research has found that both pills can be taken at the same time. Research has also shown that that all of the brands listed here are effective when used within 120 hours after unprotected sex.
c The progestin in Cryselle, Lo/Ovral, Low-Ogestrel and Ogestrel is norgestrel, which contains two isomers, only one of which (levonorgestrel) is bioactive; the amount of norgestrel in each tablet is twice the amount of levonorgestrel.


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