Emergency contraception (also known as EC) is a kind of birth control you can use after an unprotected sexual encounter. For it to be effective, you need to use it within the first five days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception works to prevent a pregnancy before it starts and will not end an existing pregnancy. (That means it won’t work if you are already pregnant.) It also doesn’t protect you against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Emergency contraception can be helpful if you had sex in these situations:

  • You didn’t use anything to prevent pregnancy.
  • Your birth control method failed—like your condom broke or slipped off, or your partner didn’t pull out in time.
  • You were forced to have unprotected sex.
  • You are late for your Depo shot.
  • You have missed doses of your birth control pill.

San Francisco City Clinic can help you with the following options for emergency contraception:

Please note: we can’t perform Paragard insertions at this time, but we can help you locate a clinic that offers this service.

Get a prescription for Plan B


Which emergency contraception (EC) is right for me?

Paragard IUD is always the most effective method of emergency contraception.

  • Works over 99% of the time and is as effective at five days as it is right after an unprotected encounter
  • Must be inserted by a trained healthcare provider
  • Works against pregnancy, no matter how much you weigh
  • Can be left in place for up to 12 years as ongoing birth control
ella is the second most effective method.
  • As effective at five days as it is right after an unprotected encounter.
  • Available by prescription only.
  • If you weigh more than 195 pounds, ella may not be effective at preventing pregnancy.
Plan B is the third most effective kind of EC.
  • Can be used up to five days after unprotected sex but is more effective the sooner you take it.
  • No prescription needed—just ask your pharmacist for Plan B.
  • Anyone, of any age or gender, can buy Plan B at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • If you weigh more than 165 pounds, Plan B may not be effective against pregnancy.

You can also use regular birth control pills as emergency contraception. Learn more

Get more information about how well each method works to prevent pregnancy. View now