The average American woman will spend more than 35 years of her life trying to prevent pregnancy - not always successfully. Each year, half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Emergency contraception (EC) offers a second chance to prevent pregnancy when other birth control methods fail or unprotected sex occurs.Lack of knowledge about EC and the misconception that EC causes abortion are the primary barriers to its use. It is well documented that EC works by blocking ovulation and has not been found to prevent implantation or disrupt an existing pregnancy.Oral EC is available as four different products: Plan B; the generic Next Choice; Plan B One-Step; and Ella. In the pharmacy, these drugs cost $25-$60 per episode.EC effectiveness in preventing pregnancy is directly related to how soon after unprotected intercourse it is taken. The sooner, the better and Ella works better than the other drugs after 72 hours, although all four products have some effectiveness as long as five days after sex.EC has been a political football in terms of availability. Women younger than 17 must have a prescription to buy any form of EC. Both formulations of Plan B and Next Choice are available over the counter to women 17 and older. Ella requires a prescription for all women. Plan B One-Step is available at the Mesa County Health Department on request by women of all ages or their partners. The cost is free to $22 depending on means and no one is refused the medication.All forms of EC are extraordinarily safe and can be taken by women who cannot take birth control pills. EC is not intended as primary contraception, but offers a back up when unprotected sex occurs.Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
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