You can use emergency contraception (EC) after unprotected sex to help avoid unwanted pregnancy. You may need EC if:
- Sex was unplanned, unintended, or unwanted
- Contraceptives were not used, or used incorrectly (condom broke or slipped off)
- Diaphragm or cervical cap slipped out of place
Plan B (levonorgestrel), an emergency contraceptive pill, is now available without a prescription to persons 17 years of age or older. You must bring an ID with proof of your age to your pharmacy when purchasing Plan B. The cost for Plan B varies; local pharmacies charge between $31.00 - $50.00. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Riverside Clinic, at 160 West 100th St. (between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues), dispenses Plan B for free. Planned Parenthood of New York City also provides emergency contraception.
If you are under 17, you still need a prescription for Plan B. Columbia University students who are under 17 may obtain a prescription by contacting Medical Services. If students would like to obtain Plan B at a discount from one of our local pharmacies, they should first come to Medical Services to speak with one of our nurses or providers. During this visit, if there are no contraindications, you will receive a discount voucher that you can take to the pharmacy, along with instructions and education about emergency contraception. You will still be purchasing the medication from the pharmacy but at a significantly reduced cost and this will not impact or be billed to your insurance.
The Plan B directions indicate to take one tablet of Plan B as soon as possible (and no later than 72 hours after unprotected sex) and the second tablet 12 hours later. More recent studies show that Plan B can be effective for up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. These studies also show that taking both pills at once (rather than waiting 12 hours for the second pill) is more effective. The World Health Organization and Planned Parenthood now advocate taking Plan B up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex and taking both pills at once.
Several brands of birth control pills may be used in different doses as emergency contraception, and are available by prescription for $10.00. Contact a medical provider for this option.