Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception  can be used to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex  –  if a condom broke, or you were more than 24 hours late taking a birth control pill, or you were later than 13 weeks in getting your next depo shot, or if nothing was used for protection. If you’re not sure whether emergency contraception would be a good idea in your situation, please call the Sex Sense Line at 1-800-739-7367 or speak with a health care provider.

Copper IUD

What is it?

A copper IUD is a small device made out of plastic and copper that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. It can be inserted up to seven days after unprotected sex to prevent a pregnancy.

How does it work?

It interferes with sperm activity, prevents fertilization, and implantation of an egg.

How effective is it?

A copper IUD is over 99% effective as emergency contraception, making it by far the most effective emergency method.

How long does it work for?

If you want to leave the IUD in, it will continue to provide very effective (99.2%) protection against pregnancy for up to 5 or 10 years, depending on which one you get. If you don’t like it or want to get pregnant, you can have it taken out any time after your next period. Removal is a quick easy procedure and once removed, fertility returns very quickly.

How do I get it?

Call Everywoman’s Health Centre at 604-322-6692, Willow Clinic at 604-709-5611 or Elizabeth Bagshaw Clinic at 604-736-7878. Make sure you say it is for an emergency IUD so that we can get you an appointment as soon as possible. Or website has more information on IUDs. If you are not in the Vancouver area, call the Sex Sense Line at 1-800-739-7367 to inquire about local BC clinics that offer emergency IUDs or go to http://emergencyiud.com/

Is it safe?

Yes. The risks are very small. There is a risk of one in 1,000 to 10,000 that the IUD could go through the wall of the uterus when inserted by a highly experienced doctor. This usually heals within weeks with no long term side effects, but sometimes requires a minor procedure to remove the IUD. There is a risk of around five percent over five years that the uterus will push the IUD out of the body (expulsion). This is most likely to happen in the first 6 weeks. There is also a very slight increased risk of infection in the first three weeks after insertion.

What are the side effects?

Many people feel cramping pain when the IUD is inserted, but insertion is usually very quick. Some people may feel like they are having a period afterwards with light bleeding and cramping. Periods are heavier and longer for most people afterwards, but often improve after the first 3 or 4 months.

How much does it cost?

Everywoman’s Health Centre charges $75 for a copper IUD that is effective for up to five years and $90 for one that is effective for up to ten years.

Call 604-322-6692 to book an emergency IUD insertion appointment at Everywoman’s. If you leave a message please say that it is for an emergency IUD.

Emergency pills

What are they?

If you have unprotected sex (your method of birth control fails, such as when a condom breaks or you miss more than two birth control pills in a row), emergency pills can help reduce your chance of pregnancy. There are two kinds: progestin emergency pills (such as Plan B, Next Choice, Norlevo, Contingency 1 or Option2) and Ulipristal Acetate emergency pills (which are also called Ella).

How do they work?

They postpone ovulation, the release of an egg. If you are already pregnant, taking these pills will not end or impact the pregnancy.

How effective are they?

Ella (Ulipristal Acetate) pills are approximately 60% effective if taken within 120 hours after unprotected sex. Progestin emergency pills such as Plan B, Next Choice, Option 2 and Norlevo are approximately 50% effective. You can take either of these pills up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take them the more likely they are to work. The effectiveness declines over time (more quickly with progestin based pills than with Ella – if 72 hours or more has passed, Ella is recommended).

Please note: Emergency pills are meant to reduce the risk of pregnancy from sex you have already had. Because they may delay your fertile time, you can get pregnant more easily if you have unprotected sex after taking them.

How do I get them?

Ella (Ulipristal Acetate) emergency pills require a prescription. You can then purchase them at a pharmacy. Not all pharmacies carry it and you might have to have it special ordered, so consider calling in advance. Progestin emergency pills are available without a prescription. You can get them at most pharmacies and some clinics.  You can also purchase them in advance to have at home so that they can be taken as soon as possible in an emergency (always check expiry dates before using if you’ve had it at home for a while).

How much do they cost?

With a prescription an emergency pill may be covered by an extended health drug plan (check with your plan for more information or bring your health plan card to the pharmacy).

Ella (Ulipristal Acetate) costs approximately $40 per dose. Progestin based emergency pills like Plan B range from $15-$40. If you are age 24 or younger, you may be able to get Plan B or another progestin emergency pill for free or at low cost from a youth clinic (www.vch.ca/your_health/youth/youth_clinics/ or www.fraserhealth.ca/find_us/services). Options for Sexual Health clinics sell Contingency 1 for $15 (www.optionsforsexualhealth.org) and they are available for about $25 at Costco (you may not require a membership if you have a prescription – please call in advance to make sure).

Are they safe?

Yes. There is no harm to you if you take them, nor do they cause birth defects if they do not work or if you were already pregnant when you took them.

Can anyone use them?

Yes. However, Plan B, Next Choice, Norlevo and other progestin emergency pills may be less effective for people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-29 or weigh 165 -176 lbs (75-80kg).  It may not be effective at all in people with a BMI of 30 or higher or who weigh more than 176 lbs (80kg). Ella (Ulipristal Acetate) may also be less effective for people who have a higher BMI, but seems to be more effective than progestin emergency pills.

What are the side effects?

There is a small chance of headaches, lower abdominal (belly) pain, breast tenderness, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and vomiting for a day or two after you take emergency pills. You can use Tylenol, ibuprophen, or Gravol for these symptoms. Your period may be irregular in the month or two after you take an emergency pill – it may come earlier or later than expected. You may also experience some unexpected spotting or bleeding.

Is it OK to take often?

 There are no health risks in taking emergency pills often, but there may be a high risk of pregnancy.  Emergency pills are not as effective as other birth control – they are meant only as an emergency or “back-up” method. You also should not take Ella and progestin-based emergency pills (like Plan B) within 5 days of each other as they may interfere with each other.

How will I know if it’s worked?

If you bleed like a period within three weeks of taking an emergency pill, it has likely worked to prevent pregnancy. If you do not have a period within three weeks, then take a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are available at a pharmacy, clinic or doctor’s office. They are most effective with the first urine of the morning.

How do I restart my birth control after?

If you are going back on or starting the birth control pill, patch, ring, or Depo shot, you can do so the day after you take a progestin emergency pill like Plan B. Back up with condoms or abstain from sex until you’ve been on the birth control method for 7 days. If you took Ella, you need to wait 5 days before starting or continuing hormonal birth control. Back up with condoms or abstain from sex during those 5 days and for the 7 days after you start or restart birth control. If you have questions about how to start or restart birth control after using emergency contraceptive pills, please call the Sex Sense Line at 1-800-739-7367 or email them at sexsense@optbc.org.

Please note:

Emergency pills are not meant to replace a regular form of birth control. They are far less effective and more expensive to use than the birth control pill, patch, ring, shot or IUDs.

If you need to use emergency pills, then we recommend trying to find a method of birth control that might be a better fit for you. If you want an IUD, you can make an appointment to come here to have it inserted. We also have more birth control information on this site.

Questions? For more information about birth control you can make an appointment by calling us at 604-322-6692, you can email us or you contact Sex Sense through email or at 1-800-739-7367

Missed a dose or late with your birth control? Check out Stay on Schedule to find out if you need Emergency Contraception at https://www.sexandu.ca/sos/ or contact Sex Sense at 1-800-739-7367 or sexsense@optbc.org

Used Emergency Contraception more than once lately? This might mean you need to start birth control or change to a method that suits you better. See “It’s a Plan” for more information about different birth control options at http://itsaplan.ca/

210 – 2525 Commercial Drive, Vancouver, BC   V5N 4C1
Phone hours: 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Monday to Friday

Appointments: 604-322-6692
business inquiries only: 604-322-6576
Fax: 604-322-6632

Everywoman’s sits on the traditional, ancestral, and un-ceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples– xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam),  Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish).