Free Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (EC) reduces the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. Common situations in which EC could be used include forgetting to take several birth control pills in a row, having a condom break or slip off, or not using a birth control method during sex.

Free EC @ UMD

What is Free EC @ UMD?

EC has been available for several years in many locations around campus at-cost. Free EC @ UMD started as a joint effort between the Student Government Association (SGA) and the University Health Center (UHC) to provide free EC to UMD students from August 2021 through August 2023.

How is Free EC @ UMD funded?

Currently, this program is funded by donations from Plan B One-Step ®. 

From 2021-2023, the program was funded by the Student Government Association (SGA). Demonstrated student demand for this EC prompted SGA to pilot this project in an effort to reduce any financial barriers to accessing emergency contraception. In 2021, SGA allocated money to the University Health Center (UHC) exclusively for the purchase of EC to distribute through the UHC Pharmacy at no cost to students.



Where can I get Free EC @ UMD?

UMD community members can access free EC at the UHC Pharmacy by providing their UID when they pick up the medication. 

The pharmacy’s hours of operation can be found here

Free EC is also available through UHC Reproductive Health appointments and through select Health Promotion & Wellness Services outreach events and initiatives.

You don’t need a prescription to access Free EC @ UMD, and people of any age and any gender can pick this up for themselves, for a friend, for a partner, a roommate, etc. 

Why do I have to provide my ID and what information is being used?

A UID (or other form of identification) is required for the UHC pharmacy to properly track medication dispensed at our location. This transaction does NOT become part of someone’s UHC medical record.

How does EC work, and how effective and safe is it?

The form of emergency contraception that is available through this free program is one pill that you place in your mouth and swallow, preferably with water. You can take the medication with or without food.

The EC pill works by preventing ovulation. If no egg is released, the sperm has nothing to fertilize. If someone has already ovulated before taking the EC pill, they may get pregnant despite taking the pill. If the sperm has already fertilized the egg, the EC pill will not inhibit implantation, and it will not have any impact on an existing pregnancy. 

The EC pill is not 100% effective. The sooner you take the pill after sexual behavior that might result in a pregnancy, the more likely it is that the pill will work to delay ovulation, and thus prevent pregnancy. It should be taken within 72 hours (three days), but you can also take it up to five days after. The sooner you take it, the better it works. 

There is some evidence to suggest that the medication that is available through this free program, levonorgestrel, is not as effective in preventing pregnancy in people who weigh over 155 pounds. The other emergency contraception medication (ulipristal acetate) and IUDs are more likely to prevent pregnancy in those who weigh more than 155 pounds.

Emergency contraception is not meant to be used as a regular form of birth control because it is not as effective. If you find that you are using emergency contraception frequently, talk to your doctor about finding a primary birth control method that is right for you.

According to the FDA, there are no safety concerns with taking levonorgestrel. 

There are other forms of emergency contraception, right?

There are two ways to prevent pregnancy after you have unprotected sex:

Option 1: Get a non-hormonal IUD (Paragard) within 120 hours (five days) after having unprotected sex. This is the most effective type of emergency contraception. The non-hormonal IUD works as well on day one as it does on day five. There is also evidence to suggest that hormonal IUDs are just as effective as non-hormonal IUDs as emergency contraception. 

Note: While the UHC routinely places IUDs as a regular contraceptive method, we are currently unable to accommodate the quick turnaround time required to place an IUD as emergency contraception. 

Option 2: Take an emergency contraception pill (AKA the morning-after pill) within 120 hours (five days) after having unprotected sex. There are 2 types of morning-after pills:

A pill with ulipristal acetate. 

There’s only one brand, called ella.

  • ella is the most effective type of morning-after pill.
  • You need a prescription to get ella.
  • You can take ella up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex — but it’s best to take it as soon as you can.
  • If you weigh 195 pounds or more, ella may not work.
  • ella is available at the UHC Pharmacy.


Brand names include: Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way, Option 2, Preventeza, AfterPill, My Choice, Aftera, EContra, and others. 

  • You can buy the levonorgestrel pill over the counter without a prescription in many convenience stores across campus and in most drugstores and pharmacies.
  • These types of morning-after pills work best when you take them within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex, but you can take them up to five days after. The sooner you take them, the better they work.
  • If you weigh 155 pounds or more, the levonorgestrel pill may not work.

What if I need emergency contraception after hours or on the weekend?

Anyone can access the levonorgestrel form of EC for $15 at The Union Shop in The Stamp, the North Convenience Shop in the Cambridge Community Center, and the South Campus Market in the South Campus Dining Hall. You can find campus shop hours here. EC is also available at local pharmacies in the community but is generally more expensive off-campus. See the Sexual Health Resource Map for local options.

The sooner you take an EC pill after sexual behavior that might result in a pregnancy, the more effective the medication is at preventing pregnancy. Some people find it most convenient to get a unit of emergency contraception before an “emergency” so that they, a partner, or a friend has it more quickly in a time of need. 

This means that any UMD community member can come by the UHC Pharmacy during business hours and access free EC to keep on hand for a possible after-hours or weekend need for the medication. 

What other contraception/birth control services and options are available at UHC?

In addition to emergency contraception, UHC offers several birth control services:

  • Free birth control consultations
  • Birth control start and refill services
  • Pregnancy testing, counseling, and referrals 

In addition to emergency contraception, UHC offers several birth control options:

  • Free condoms (internal and external)
  • Over 20 kinds of birth control pills
  • The vaginal ring (NuvaRing)
  • The contraceptive patch
  • Diaphragms
  • The Shot (Depo Provera)
  • The Implant (Nexplanon)
  • Intrauterine Devices (hormonal and non-hormonal options)

What should I do after using emergency contraception?

If you continue to be sexually active, start/continue to use regular birth control methods to prevent pregnancy. Take a pregnancy test about a month after you take emergency contraceptive pill, or if you miss your period. If your period is late and the pregnancy test is negative, wait a few more days and take another. If you were potentially exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), consider getting tested at the UHC or another testing facility. 

In addition to the free EC, $2 pregnancy tests are available at the UHC Pharmacy.

What other resources can I turn to for more information about Sexual Health Services at the UHC?

Please check out the various sexual health services and resources available to students by visiting our Gynecology, Reproductive, Genital, and Sexual Health Services page and Sexual Health Resources page

UMD community members receiving EC medication for free or at-cost in any campus location should be receiving educational handouts including various campus sexual health services and resources. 


For questions about emergency contraception medication: or 301-314-8167.