Emergency contraception (or the morning after pill)

Sometimes a person has had unprotected sex and is worried they may be pregnant. Or the condom may have broken or fallen off during sex. A girl may be more than 24 hours late in taking the pill.

The emergency contraceptive pill (or the morning after pill) is a hormone pill that can be taken up to three days (up to 72 hours) after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The sooner it is taken the more effective it is. Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - so both partners need to have an STI test.

Emergency contraception can be taken if:

  • You didn't use any contraception.
  • You forgot to take the contraceptive pill.
  • You had vomiting or diarrhoea or had to go on antibiotics, which can make the pill ineffective.
  • You didn't use a condom.
  • The condom broke or came off.
  • You have been sexually assaulted.

The hormones in the pill help to prevent fertilisation of a female's egg, by delaying ovulation or preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. The hormones may make her feel sick on the day, but after that there are no long-term effects on the body. If you vomit after taking the pill, see a doctor or health care worker straightaway.

Emergency contraception is the most effective if taken within 24 hours of sexual intercourse. There is a 1 - 3% risk of becoming pregnant after taking emergency contraception. It is most likely to fail if any of the following situations occur:

  • You are already pregnant.
  • You vomit within two hours of taking the pills.
  • You have unprotected sex after taking the pills.

It's highly recommended to see your doctor or sexual health clinic three weeks after taking the pill to make sure that it has worked properly.

Get it from chemists, your doctor or sexual health clinic.

Other types of contraception

Abstinence Implanon® (implant)
Condoms (female) Intrauterine device (IUD)
Condoms (male) Non-penetrative sex
Contraceptive pills NuvaRing®
Depo Provera® (injections) Spermicides
Emergency contraception Withdrawal