Emergency contraception

Pill or IUD which prevents a pregnancy when taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

When taken up to five days after unprotected sex emergency contraception helps to prevent a pregnancy. There are several types of emergency contraception, there are pills that can be taken by mouth, as well as an IUD, which is inserted into the womb. More information on the IUD is available here.

Emergency contraceptive pills mostly work by preventing or delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries. A popular type of emergency contraception, which is sometimes called ‘the morning after pill’, involves taking one or two tablets of a particular hormone. The IUD prevents a fertilised egg settling in the womb.

How well does emergency contraception work?

  • Emergency contraception is effective at preventing a pregnancy after unprotected sex.
  • Only one or two women would fall pregnant if one hundred women had sex once during the second or third week of their menstrual cycle without using contraception and then all used emergency contraception.
  • In general, the sooner an emergency contraceptive is used the better it is at stopping a pregnancy. Emergency contraception has to be used within five days to be most effective and must be used after EVERY incident of unprotected sex.

What are other good things about emergency contraception?

  • Emergency contraception is safe for nearly all women.
  • In addition to the IUD there are many different pill options available.
  • Using emergency contraception does not affect your long term fertility. After taking the emergency contraceptive pill your fertility will return the following month after you have your period. If you use the IUD your fertility will return as soon as you decide to take the IUD out.

What else should you know?

  • Emergency contraception does not cause an abortion, it either prevents fertilisation between the egg and the sperm from occurring or prevents the fertilised egg from settling in the womb.
  • Emergency contraception can be used at any time in your menstrual cycle.
  • Emergency contraception is not harmful to your health or long term fertility. You can use it as many times in your life as you need.

Compare methods

A comparison of all of different methods, looking at how long the
contraceptive protection lasts and how well they work at preventing a pregnancy.

Compare methods