Cupids Health

Your back-to-school guide to emergency contraception


Whether this semester is all about hitting that 4.0 or hitting, well, “it” with the hottie from down the hall, things can happen fast in college. If your fall plans don’t involve getting pregnant, you might want to have some emergency contraception on hand.

First, some facts. Emergency contraception (EC) is the only way to prevent pregnancy after sex has already happened. It’s NOT the same thing as the abortion pill. If you’re already pregnant, it won’t end the pregnancy. But don’t worry—pregnancy doesn’t happen the moment you have unprotected sex. The goal is to take EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex to delay your ovary from releasing an egg. If there’s no egg to meet up with sperm (which can hang around inside your body for days after unprotected sex), pregnancy can’t happen.

Here are some examples of moments when EC could come in handy:

  • You didn’t use a condom
  • The condom fell off, wasn’t on the whole time, or broke
  • You made a mistake with your birth control (like forgetting your pill)
  • Your partner didn’t pull out in time

There are a few different kinds of EC out there.

  • Over-the-counter EC (brands like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, My Way, and others)
  • Prescription-only EC (sold under the brand name ella)
  • Some types of IUDs–the non-hormonal copper IUD (Paragard) and the hormonal IUDs LILETTA and Mirena.

Picking the right one for you depends on a few variables, like how quickly you can get it. It may also depend on how much you weigh (yeah, it’s weird). That’s because over-the-counter EC may not be as effective if you weigh 165 pounds or more, and ella may not be as effective if you weigh over 195 pounds. Read all about the different kinds of EC.

IUDs are the most effective methods of EC no matter how much you weigh. And bonus–you can keep them in as a long-acting method of birth control (or have them removed after using them as EC), To get an IUD as emergency contraception, you need to visit a health care provider who is trained to place IUDs. Find the health centers closest to your campus.

But when it comes to emergency contraception that comes in pill form (both over-the-counter and prescription-only), it’s never been easier to get your hands on some if, say, things don’t go as planned with that “study-buddy-with-benefits” (or whoever). Here are some of the ways you can get it:

1. Get EC in person

College students can pick up over-the-counter EC (like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, My Way, and others) at a nearby store or pharmacy, campus health centers, and even some fully-stocked campus vending machines. There are no age restrictions for purchasing EC, nor do you need to show ID or a prescription to purchase.

Worried about the price? You may qualify for low-cost or free EC at your nearest health center that offers birth control.

Same goes for ella. You need a prescription for ella, so your best bet is calling or visiting your school’s student health center or another health care provider. After your provider calls in your prescription, you can pick it up at a pharmacy. Keep in mind some pharmacies deliver prescription meds. Since ella is a prescription drug, your insurance will probably cover it.

2. Get EC online

You can order over-the-counter EC online from vendors like CVS, Walmart, Target, and tons of other places. (Just search “emergency contraception.”)

In addition, there are delivery services like Instacart and GoPuff that will deliver OTC emergency contraception in a few hours.

Here are some telehealth providers that offer over-the-counter EC:

HeyDoctor/GoodRx
Cost: $49 + cost of EC
Where is it available? All 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Delivery time: Same-day pharmacy pick-up, or a few days by mail.

Nurx
Cost: $20 (plus $15 if you choose 2-day shipping)
Where is it available? Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., Armed Forces (Americas, Europe, Pacific).
Delivery time: 2-4 days.

SimpleHealth
Cost: $42
Where is it available: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Delivery time: About a week.

Wisp
Cost for levonorgestrel-based EC: $17
Where is it available? All 50 states.
Delivery time: 3-5 days for EC

If you get your regular birth control method (like the pill, patch, or ring) from an online birth control website like Alpha or Nurx, you can add EC to one of your orders.

But remember: over-the-counter EC works better the sooner you take it, so waiting for the package to come in the mail can be a bit of a problem. Getting over-the-counter emergency contraception online may be better for thinking ahead in case of—you know—emergencies. Luckily, EC pills can be stored for years, so if you buy it ahead, it will last for a while on your shelf. Just check the expiration date before you use it.

Ella, by contrast, works equally well at preventing pregnancy over the course of five days after sex, so ordering it online isn’t as much of an issue. Some websites allow you to fill out a form or talk with a health care provider online. Then you can either have ella sent to you in the mail or have a prescription called in to your nearest pharmacy.

Here are some telehealth providers that offer ella:

PRJKT RUBY
Cost: $105 (they don’t take insurance), including next-day shipping.
Where is it available? In almost all U.S. states, except for North Carolina.
Delivery time: next day

HeyDoctor/GoodRx
Cost: $49 for online assessment plus the cost of ella (could be $0 if you use insurance).
Where is it available? All 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Delivery time: Same-day pharmacy pick-up, or 2-4 days by mail.

Nurx
Cost with insurance: Free!
Cost without insurance: $60
Where is it available? Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., Armed Forces (Americas, Europe, Pacific).
Delivery time: 2-4 days.

Wisp
Cost: $22 + cost of ella at pharmacy (could be $0 if you use insurance)
Where is it available? All 50 states.
Delivery time: Same-day pharmacy pick-up.

So, as you can see, when it comes to getting EC, you’ve got options. As you head back to campus, take a second between buying those overpriced textbooks and meeting up with your friends for an epic night out, and make a plan to grab some EC. That way worrying about your birth control plan falling through will be one less thing standing between you and the best semester ever.





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