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Emergency contraception


A strip of pills on a wooden surface.


What is emergency contraception?

If you have unprotected sex or you think your current contraception method has failed then you might require emergency contraception, commonly called the morning after pill. There are different types of emergency contraception available, as well as an emergency contraception pill there is an emergency IUD (Intrauterine device). Emergency contraception is very effective but not as effective as using other methods of contraception on a regular basis.

Most women can use the emergency IUD and take the emergency pill.

How does emergency contraception work?

The emergency IUD is a small plastic and copper device that is inserted in your uterus. Some women  may experience a period type pain and bleeding after an IUD has been fitted. There are no short or long term side effects, your next period should come about the same time though it may be heavier.

There are 2 different types of emergency contraception pill available, one that contains Levonorgestrel, there are various brands of this type available. Levonorgestrel is similar to the natural hormone progesterone produced in the ovaries it is thought to work by tricking the body into thinking ovulation has already occurred and so delaying the release of the egg. The other is called EllaOne, there is currently only the one brand of this type available in the UK and contains the active ingredient,  Ulipristal Acetate (UPA), it works by delaying ovulation.

Where can I get emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is free and is available from your GP, family planning clinic, GUM clinics, young person services, NHS walk in centres and many pharmacies.

The emergency contraception pill can also be purchased from online pharmacies or some paying clinics. The cost can vary between £25-£35.

How do I take emergency contraception?

You will have just one pill to take of the EllaOne, this needs to be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex. The emergency pill with levonorgestrel is also 1 tablet that should be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex but try to take as soon as possible. The sooner the pill is taken the better chance there is of it being effective.

The IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. An IUD has to be fitted by a nurse or your GP and the appointment should take 20-30 minutes. The IUD is the most effective emergency contraception but some women find it uncomfortable and invasive.

How will I know if it has worked?

You will know it worked when you get your next period. If you haven’t had your normal period within 7 days or feel you might be pregnant then you can carry out a pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant. To purchase a pregnancy test please click here.