Emergency contraception

If you’ve had unprotected sex, problems with a condom coming off or splitting, or been sick whilst using the contraceptive pill try not to panic! You can usually prevent pregnancy if you act fast. Read on for information about getting emergency contraception.

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy in most cases if acted upon within 5 days (or 120 hours) of having unprotected sex and is free of charge to young people from a range of local services.

There are different types of emergency contraception; the emergency contraceptive pill (used to be known as 'the morning after pill’) and the IUD sometimes called ’the coil’ - this is the most effective emergency contraception.

All methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy if they are used as soon as possible after unprotected sex so try not to delay!

While emergency contraception can work well, it's not as effective as using other methods of contraception regularly. See here for more information.

Emergency contraceptive pill

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill: Levonelle and EllaOne. Levonelle can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. EllaOne can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. The emergency contraception pill needs to be taken as soon as possible after sex to have the best chance of working.

IUD – ‘the coil’

An IUD or ’the coil’ can be fitted within 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected sex or five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated to prevent pregnancy. If you have the IUD fitted as emergency contraception you can then use it as your regular method of contraception.

Where can I get it from?

Emergency contraception is available free of charge to young people from a range of local services, including pharmacies involved in local emergency contraception schemes. If you are over 16 you can, if you choose, also buy the emergency contraceptive pill from pharmacies.

“I think I’ve left it too late...”

Don’t despair. If you didn’t manage to get emergency contraception from a pharmacy within 120 hours of having unprotected sex you should still seek help. The IUD ’the coil’ must be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex, or five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated. Click here to find a contraceptive service convenient to you.

More emergency contraception facts

Check out this video from sexwise.org.uk:

Find a young person-friendly service near to you that can advise you and provides FREE emergency contraception