The emergency contraception (EC) pill (previously called the ‘morning after pill’) can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy.
There are two types of hormonal emergency contraception; one which has to be taken within three days of unprotected sex, and the other within five days. The non-hormonal coil (IUD) is the most effective 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.
The emergency contraceptive pill is the most popular method of emergency contraception, and can be bought without prescription from most pharmacies. To see a list of pharmacies that offer EC for free click here. Please ensure you contact the pharmacy first to ensure the correct pharmacy is on duty who is able to offer it free of charge.
*most effective within 24 hours. Effectiveness decreases with time since unprotected sex
**can make earlier or later
For hormonal emergency contraception:
Take one pill, within the specified time period. The emergency contraceptive pill is much more likely to work if you take it within 24 hours of having sex.
There are two different types of emergency contraceptive pill:
If you vomit within two hours of taking Levonorgestrel (LNG), or three hours after taking Ulipristal acetate (UPA), seek medical advice as you will need to take another dose or have a non-hormonal coil (IUD) fitted.
You will need to tell the doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the unprotected sex you have had so to they can advise on the most suitable method of emergency contraception.
Both types of pill contain ingredients which prevent or delay ovulation (the egg being released from your ovaries). LNG contains levonorgestrel and UPA contains ulipristal acetate.
Emergency contraceptive pills or emergency IUDs do not protect against STIs. You should use condoms to protect yourself from STIs.
STIs can pass from one person to another during sex, especially if you don’t use a condom. It is a good idea to get tested, especially if you have recently changed partners. Most infections can be cured.
Using the emergency contraceptive pill repeatedly can disrupt your natural menstrual cycle.
Ulipristal acetate (UPA) is not suitable for women who:
Next period earlier or later than usual.
Can make you feel sick, dizzy or tired, or give you a headache, tender breasts or abdominal pain.
Some women using Ulipristal acetate (UPA) experience painful periods, mood swings, and muscle or back pain.