Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Emergency Family Planning (ECP, emergency contraceptive pills)

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Table of Medicines: Green pages > Emergency family planning


You can use regular birth control pills or special emergency pills to prevent pregnancy within 5 days after unprotected sex. The number of pills you need to take depends on the amount of estrogen or progestin each pill contains. There are many brands of pills, and some brand names are used for more than one type of pill. The chart on the next page lists only a few common brands for each type of pill. Make sure you know the amount of hormone in the pills before you use them in an emergency.

How to take pills for emergency family planning

Pills for emergency family planning
Emergency pills containing 1.5 mg (1500 mcg) levonorgestrel (NorLevo 1.5, Plan B One-Step, Postinor-1)Take one pill, one time only
Emergency pills containing 30 mg ulipristal acetate (ella, ella-One)Take one pill, one time only
Emergency pills containing 0.75 mg (750 mcg) levonorgestrel (NorLevo 0.75, Optinor, Postinor, Postinor-2, Plan B) Take 2 pills, one time only
Combined pills containing 50 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 250 mcg levonorgestrel (Neogynon, Nordiol, Tetragynon) or 500 mcg norgestrel (Ovral) Take 2 pills Take 2 more pills 12 hours later
Combined pills containing 30 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 150 mcg levonorgestrel (Microgynon, Nordette) or 300 mcg norgestrel (Lo-Femenal, Lo/Ovral) Take 4 pills Take 4 more pills 12 hours later
Combined pills containing 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 100 mcg levonorgestrel (Alesse, Lutera) Take 5 pills Take 5 more pills 12 hours later
Progestin-only pills (minipills) containing 75 mcg norgestrel (Ovrette) Take 40 pills one time only
Progestin-only pills (minipills) containing 37.5 mcg levonorgestrel (Neogest) Take 40 pills one time only
Progestin-only pills (mini pills) containing 30 mcg levonorgestrel (Microlut, Microval) Take 50 pills one time only


With a 28-day packet of combined pills, use any of the first 21 pills to come up with the dose as shown above but do not use the last 7 pills because they may be reminder pills and not contain any hormones. In the packets of progestin-only minipills, every pill has the same dose of hormone.

Progestin-only pills and special emergency pills have fewer side effects (headaches and nausea) than combined pills used for emergency family planning.


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