Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) may be used after sex to avoid unwanted pregnancy when a method of birth control failed or was not used.

You may need EC if:

  • Sex was unplanned, unintended, or unwanted
  • Contraceptives were not used, failed, or were used incorrectly (missed birth control pills, late for Depo Provera injection, condom broke or slipped off)
  • Nuva Ring diaphragm or IUD slipped out of place
  • You want to be prepared in case any of the above occur

Accessing EC:

For the highest rates of efficacy EC should be taken at the earliest reasonable opportunity and within 72-120 hours (depending on the option selected).  Columbia Health encourages students to consider if having EC available before a moment of need to reduce concern and ability to access should the need arise.

On campus - Columbia University students can obtain Plan B or Ella directly at Medical Services (John Jay Hall, 3rd Floor). Students can utilize same-day walk-in service or make an appointment online at https://secure.health.columbia.edu  or by calling (212) 854-7426. After-hours, students may call (212) 854-7426 for medical advice.

Off campus - Nearby pharmacies and drug stores offer EC, including options that do not require a presription.  There are neigborhood pharmacies open 24 hours should an individual desire to access EC when Medical Services is not open.


On Campus - There is no out of pocket cost on Plan B or Ella for Columbia students who have paid the Columbia Health & Related Services fee and access EC at Medical Services (John Jay Hall, 3rd Floor).

Off Campus - If obtained off campus, the cost of this medication is covered by the Columbia University Student Health Insurance Plan. Other insurance plans may require a co-payment or not cover Emergency Contraception.  Emergency contraception is also available for free, 24 hours a day at any public hospital within the five boroughs of New York City.

About Plan B

Plan B One-Step and the generic one-pill Emergency Contraception (EC) formulations are now available without a prescription or any age limitations. One-pill EC is most effective if taken as soon as reasonably possible within 72 hours after sex, though there may continue to be some benefit up to 120 hours (5 days) after sex. If emergency contraception has been provided in the two-pill formulation, the first pill is taken as soon as possible and the second pill is taken 12 hours later.

If you are away from the Morningside campus, you can also find one-pill EC, such as Plan B, on-the-shelf at many drugstores and pharmacies and proof-of-age is not required at time of purchase. 

About Ella

At the time of the visit it may be determined, based on one’s history, that another method of emergency contraception is indicated. The emergency contraception medication, Ella, is another option which always requires a prescription. At Medical Services, this will be dispensed by a health care provider.

Other EC Options

Several levonorgestrel-containing brands of combined hormonal birth control pills may be used in different doses as emergency contraception.

The non-hormonal (copper) IUD may be used as an emergency contraception if placed within 5 days of unprotected sex and requires insertion by a skilled practitioner. 

For more information, please contact Medical Services about your options.



Do I need an appointment for emergency contraception?

Visit Medical Services during hours of operation if you need emergency contraception immediately or schedule a same day appointment with a Medical Services provider. Most emergency contraception must be started within 72 hours.

Last updated November 02, 2017