If now is not a good time for you to be pregnant, it’s important to 1️⃣ know your options and 2️⃣ make a plan (and a backup plan).
You can think of your options in three basic categories, which we’ll call Plans A, B, and C.
Plan A: Use Birth Control or Practice Abstinence. Abstaining from sexual activity that can get you pregnant can be effective, but it doesn’t work for most people in the long term. That’s where birth control comes in. Top choices include the IUD and hormonal implant, which are almost 100% effective. Birth control pills, injections, patches and even condoms and vaginal spermicides, when used consistently, can also give you very good protection. Condoms also protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. All of these methods require you to visit a health care provider and/or a drug store in advance, so consult our previous post about methods (see the end of this post) and plan ahead! Birth control is covered by health insurance, and many county health departments and Planned Parenthood clinics provide free or low-cost birth control.
Plan B: Emergency Contraception (EC). Think of these methods as a back-up for if Plan A doesn’t work out. Emergency contraception reduces the chances of you becoming pregnant when it is used soon after the fact. The most effective method of EC is to have an IUD inserted. This is up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if it happens within 5 days of having sex. And it can be left in place to provide years of ongoing birth control.
The other method of EC, known as the morning-after pill, works by delaying the release of an egg from the ovary, reducing the likelihood that you will get pregnant. There are many brands available (Plan B, E-Contra, and others) which are sold over-the-counter in drug stores and online. You don’t need a prescription, and it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your gender is. There is also a prescription pill, called Ella (ulipristol) that can be more effective in larger-bodied people. The morning after pill can work up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it the better it works. We recommend buying the morning after pill in advance and having it on-hand just in case it’s needed (your sock drawer is a great place to keep it).
Plan C: Ending a Pregnancy – Called an elective abortion, this is a safe way to end an unintended pregnancy. There are two options: the abortion pill and an in-clinic abortion. Both are safe, very effective, and very common. The abortion pill basically causes an early miscarriage and can be taken at home or in another comfortable place anytime in the first 11 weeks since your last period. In-clinic abortions are safe, simple medical procedures provided by doctors and nurses at a health center.
Due to a June 2022 Supreme Court decision, this Plan C option to end a pregnancy is no longer legally available in all states. To find out the situation in your state and get advice, call your local Planned Parenthood office. Also at the end of this post is a list of online options that can help you find the information you need, including funds for care and travel if you need it.
Thanks to science, we now have many safe and effective methods available for people who don’t want to be pregnant right now. The key is to know your options and plan ahead so that you can make the best choices for you.
Here are some links that can help you find the information you need, including funds for care and travel if you need it.
Bedsider: lots of great information and tips on birth control and sexual health
Planned Parenthood: reliable and inclusive information on birth control and abortion options
Our Bodies Our Selves: excellent print and online reproductive health information
The New York Times: state-by-state breakdown of current abortion laws
Abortion Finder: online tool to find the location nearest you
National Network of Abortion Funds: listing of agencies that can provide financial help for an abortion, including travel costs