AA: This is a commonly asked question, so I’m glad you’ve brought it up. Emergency contraception (EC) is available at the HUHS Pharmacy, located on the 1st Floor of HUHS. You can get to the Pharmacy by entering into the Smith Campus Center through the 75 Mt. Auburn Street entrance. Don’t let the construction deter you from entering, HUHS and the Pharmacy are still open.
AG: A lot of people think of EC as “Plan B” but Plan B is actually just a brand name. You are also able to get EC at HUHS Urgent Care which is in the Smith Campus Center during regular business hours and located at Pound Hall, on the Law School Campus, before 7:30 am and after 5:30 pm, on weekends, and on holidays. Once given EC, if you are asked to take it on site, you can always just say no and take it on your own time after you leave.
AA: Once you’re at the pharmacy, you can walk up to the main counter and ask for EC. The HUHS Pharmacy provides EC at no cost for female presenting individuals. For male presenting individuals, it is still available at a reduced rate of $27.86 (EC can sell for up to $50 in chain pharmacies).
AG: If you’re concerned that your gender expression may limit your access, please know that you can ask for a private consultation room to discuss your options. You’ll show the pharmacist your Harvard ID just so they can quickly verify that you’re a Harvard student, but they won’t record your name or any information about the visit. HUHS provides “EcontraEZ” which is a generic brand of EC and is also a one dose pill.
AA: One major misconception of EC is that it is an abortion pill. This is incorrect. EC is a high dosage of hormone, in the case of EcontraEZ, levonorgestrel. EC mainly works by preventing ovulation and making the uterus an inhospitable environment for a potential pregnancy.
AG: When taken within a 24 hour window after unprotected sex, EC is 95% effective at reducing the likelihood of pregnancy. Efficacy goes down with each additional day, but EC is still 89% effective when taken within a 72 hour window. After 72 hours, the efficacy goes down quite a bit, however there are other EC options, including the medication Ella or a prompt Paragard IUD insertion (Ella is only available by prescription). These both require a medical visit but act similarly to the EC you can get over the counter.
AA: Everybody reacts differently to hormonal contraception, including EC. If you are precluded from using hormonal forms of contraception for any reason, as AG mentioned you can choose the copper IUD, Paraguard, which contains no hormones. Similarly, this greatly decreases the possibility of pregnancy if inserted within 5 days of the sexual encounter. If you do choose to take a hormonal form of EC some common side effects can include menstrual changes, nausea, cramps, and fatigue. These effects shouldn’t last longer than a few days, if at all. If these side effects do last longer than a few days please seek the advisement of a medical professional.
AG: EC is not recommended as a regular form of pregnancy prevention. While there are no medical repercussions on health or fertility, EC is less effective at preventing pregnancy than most contraceptives. That means that the more often it is used, the more likely it is that these statistics will fall on the side of pregnancy. However, it is still a great option!