Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed – for example, a condom has split or you’ve missed a pill. There are two types:
- the emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the morning after pill)
- the IUD (intrauterine device, or coil)
There are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pill. Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of sex, and ellaOne has to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of sex. Both pills work by preventing or delaying ovulation (release of an egg).
The IUD can be inserted into your uterus up to five days after unprotected sex, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated. It may stop an egg from being fertilised or implanting in your womb.
Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
At a glance: facts about emergency contraception
- Both types of emergency contraception are effective at preventing pregnancy if they are used soon after unprotected sex. Less than 1% of women who use the IUD get pregnant, whereas pregnancies after the emergency contraceptive pill are not as rare. It’s thought that ellaOne is more effective than Levonelle.
- The sooner you take Levonelle or ellaOne, the more effective it will be.
- Levonelle or ellaOne can make you feel sick, dizzy or tired, or give you a headache, tender breasts or abdominal pain.
- Levonelle or ellaOne can make your period earlier or later than usual.
- If you’re sick (vomit) within two hours of taking Levonelle, or three hours of taking ellaOne, seek medical advice as you will need to take another dose or have an IUD fitted.
- If you use the IUD as emergency contraception, it can be left in as your regular contraceptive method.
- If you use the IUD as a regular method of contraception, it can make your periods longer, heavier or more painful.
- You may feel some discomfort when the IUD is put in – painkillers can help to relieve this.
- There are no serious side effects of using emergency contraception.
- Emergency contraception does not cause an abortion.
We can provide emergency assessment and contraception at Shades Clinic. If you have had unprotected sex and worried, call our surgery to book an appointment to come and see one of our private GPs who would be happy to examine you and give you any necessary advice and/or medication.