Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraceptive pill (the morning after pill)

The emergency contraceptive pill (or the morning after pill) is a hormone pill that can be taken by females to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken the more effective it is. Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so if you have had unprotected sex, you and your partner both need to have an STI test. 

You can get the morning after pill from the chemist, your doctor or a sexual health clinic.

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 particular 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 you feel sick on the day, but after that there are no long-term effects on your body. If you vomit after taking the pill, see a doctor or health care worker straight away.

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 2 hours of taking the pill.
  • you have unprotected sex after taking the pill.

It's highly recommended that you see your doctor or sexual health clinic 3 weeks after taking the pill to make sure that it has worked properly.

Emergency insertion of an intra-uterine device 

The insertion of an intra-uterine device (IUD) up to 5 days after having unprotected sex can also be used to emergency contraception. For more information have a look at the IUD page

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