What Is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception is a way to reduce your risk of pregnancy after having unprotected sex (sex without birth control or when birth control fails). Emergency contraception is a high dose of birth control pills taken in special doses within 3 days (72 hours) after sex to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception has been used here for over 10 years and has been approved by the FDA for this use.

How Do They Work?

Emergency contraceptive pills (ECP's) can prevent pregnancy by temporarily stopping eggs from being released. They also may prevent fertilization of stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. ECP's will not work if you are already pregnant. ECP's are not the same as the abortion pill. If you are already pregnant, ECP's will not harm the fetus, nor will they cause an abortion.

How Do I Use It?

With Ovral, the first set of two pills are taken anytime within 72 hours of unprotected sex and then two more pills are taken twelve hours later. Not all birth control pills can be used for emergency contraception.

When Should I Use Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception is not intended for regular contraceptive use. It should be used only in emergencies, including when:

  • You had sex without birth control and do not want to become pregnant
  • The condom broke
  • You missed 2 or more birth control pills or were 2 or more days late in starting your pack and failed to use a back-up method
  • Your diaphragm slipped
  • You missed your birth control shot
  • You were forced to have sex
  • You were a victim of rape

How do I get ECP's?

If you feel that the ECP's may be the right option for you, you should call

  • UMASS Urgent Care at 577-5229 (after hours)
  • Amherst College Health Services at 542-2266. (Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM)

Are there any side effects?

ECP's may cause some side effects. The most common are nausea and vomiting. If you experience problems, or if nausea prevents you from taking the second dose, please contact us.

Are they effective?

ECP's reduce the risk of pregnancy, but they aren't 100 percent effective. Typically, if 100 women had unprotected sex once during the second or third week of their cycle, 8 would become pregnant. Using ECP's, only 2 would become pregnant, a 75 percent reduction.


Emergency contraception should not be used repeatedly because its less effective than ongoing, correct use of regular birth control methods and offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.


If your period is more than two to three weeks late, please consider having a pregnancy test.

Emergency contraception is not designed to be used as a regular method of birth control. The first step in deciding on a regular method of birth control is to attend a contraception education session. Meeting times are held on Mondays at 7:00 PM at the Health Services. Call Health Education at 542-2760 for a private session.

Partners are encouraged to attend. Men and Women welcome.

All records are confidential.

No information will be released, either verbally or in writing, without your written permission. The restriction in information release applies or parents, faculty, and staff.

Important Numbers :
UHS Information / Operator
24-Hour Advice / Triage Nurse: Urgent Care
Amherst College Student Health Services
Health Education

For more information check out the Emergency Contraception Website.

Emergency Contraception Hotline: 1-888-NOT-2-LATE