Emergency contraception pill

The emergency contraception (EC) pill (previously called the ‘morning after pill’) can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

Emergency contraception pill: an overview

The emergency contraception (EC) pill (previously called the ‘morning after pill’) can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

The emergency contraceptive pill is the most popular method of emergency contraception, and can be bought without prescription from most pharmacies. It is also available free of charge at some pharmacies.

There are two different types of emergency contraceptive pill:

  • Levonorgestrel (LNG), which has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sex
  • Ulipristal acetate (UPA), which has to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected sex

Take one pill, within the specified time period. The emergency contraception pill is much more likely to work if you take it within 24 hours of having sex.

Both types of pill contain ingredients which prevent or delay ovulation (the egg being released from your ovaries).

You can book an appointment for contraception at axess here.

Can be taken
Up to 5 days
Bleed cycle**

*most effective within 24 hours. Effectiveness decreases with time since unprotected sex and depends on the day of your cycle. If taken after ovulation, it is ineffective.

**can make your cycle arrive earlier or later

Frequently asked questions

Where can I get the emergency contraception pill?

You can get either EC pill from pharmacies. Please ring your pharmacy ahead of time to see if a staff member is available to provide you with emergency contraception.

You can also get emergency contraception from your nearest axess clinic.

Are there any side effects to the emergency contraception pill?

There are no serious side effects of using the emergency contraception pill.

Your menstrual cycle may arrive earlier, or later, than usual. Using the emergency contraceptive pill repeatedly can disrupt your natural menstrual cycle.

Rare side effects can include dizziness, sickness, or tiredness. You may rarely experience a headache, tender breasts, or abdominal pain.

Some women using ulipristal acetate (UPA) may experience painful periods, mood swings, and muscle or back pain.

What if I'm already using another form of contraception?

The following forms of emergency contraception have different effects on your existing contraception.

If you take ulipristal acetate (UPA):

  • You cannot take UPA if you have had any hormonal contraception in the previous seven days as it can make the emergency contraception less effective.
  • You can take it more than once in a menstrual cycle.

If you take levonorgestrel (LNG):

  • LNG does not interfere with your regular method of contraception. You can take it more than once in a menstrual cycle.

Neither UPA or LNG protect you against pregnancy from any further sex. They are not intended to be a regular form of contraception.

Can anything make the emergency contraception pill less effective?

Emergency contraceptive pills can become less effective at preventing pregnancy if you are taking some other medicines. Ask your healthcare professional and read the information that comes with your medicine.

If you wait longer than 24 hours to take levonorgestrel (LNG), it may become less effective.

Am I suitable for the emergency contraception pill?

Most people who can get pregnant are able to take the emergency contraceptive pill. This includes those who cannot usually use hormonal contraception, such as the combined pill and contraceptive patch.

Ulipristal acetate (UPA) is not suitable for those who:

  • are allergic to any components of the drug
  • have severe asthma, that is not properly controlled by steroids
  • have hereditary problems with lactose metabolism
What is the difference between the emergency contraception pill and an emergency contraceptive IUD?

The emergency contraceptive non-hormornal coil (IUD) is the most effective form of emergency contraception, if inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. The IUD is just as effective on day 5 as it is on day 1, whereas the emergency contraceptive pill is most effective within 24 hours.

Will the pill protect me from STIs?

Neither emergency contraceptive pills or emergency IUDs protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should always use condoms to protect yourself against STIs.

STIs can pass from one person to another during sex, especially if you don't use a condom.

It's a good idea to get tested for STIs, especially if you have recently changed partners. Most infections can be cured.