Emergency Contraception

Last reviewed: 6/15/2023

Emergency contraception may be used after sex when a method of birth control failed or was not used. Most emergency contraception must be started within 72 hours.

Students may need emergency contraception if:

  • Sex was unplanned, unintended, or unwanted.
  • Contraceptives were not used or failed, or were used incorrectly (i.e., missed birth control pills, late for Depo Provera injection, condom broke or slipped off).
  • NuvaRing, diaphragm or intrauterine device (IUD) slipped out of place.

Columbia students can obtain Plan B or Ella directly at Medical Services. Students can speak to a nurse or make a nursing appointment appointment by calling 212-854-7426. After-hours, call 212-854-7426 for medical advice.


At Medical Services

There is no additional cost for Plan B or Ella to Columbia students who have paid the full Columbia Health and Related Services Fee.

Undergraduate Residence Hall Vending Machines

Students can purchase emergency contraception via the vending machines found in the lobby of two undergraduate residence halls: John Jay Hall and Schapiro Hall

Using insurance

If students are away from the Morningside/Manhattanville campus, they can also find one-pill emergency contraception, such as Plan B, on-the-shelf at many drugstores and pharmacies. Proof-of-age is not required at time of purchase.

The cost for emergency contraception varies—local pharmacies charge between $31 and $50—but is also available for free, 24 hours a day at any public hospital within the five boroughs of New York City.

Students who are on the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan: The cost of this medication is covered by the Plan, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

Students who are on other insurance plans: Other insurance plans may require a co-payment or may not cover emergency contraception.

Contraception Options

Plan B

Plan B One-Step and the generic one-pill emergency contraception formulations are available without a prescription or any age limitations. One-pill is most effective if taken as soon as 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.


At the time of the visit, a medical provider may determine, based on medical history, that another method of emergency contraception is indicated. The emergency contraception medication Ella is another option that always requires a prescription. At Medical Services, Ella is dispensed by a healthcare provider.

Other 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 five days of unprotected sex and requires insertion by a skilled practitioner (not available at Medical Services).

Contact Medical Services for information and guidance about your options.