Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception can be used in emergency in order to avoid pregnancy if you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or if your usual contraception has been unsuccessful.

Two methods are available: The copper IUD (the coil) or hormonal contraception (the "morning after pill").

Emergency contraception is not ideal to use repeatedly and you should consider regular contraceptive methods if you are sexually active.

Please note that neither method of emergency contraception protects you against sexually transmitted infections.

Hormonal Emergency Contraception

  • The morning after pill contains a high dose of progesterone and can be obtained from your GP, family planning clinics, or pharmacies.
  • It is important to remember that emergency hormonal contraception is not 100% effective.
  • It is more effective the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex, and delays ovulation or prevents an egg implanting into your womb.
  • It is ineffective if you are already pregnant
  • There are not usually any contraindications but you will be asked a few medical questions before you will be given the medication
  • There are two types of morning after pill in the UK - Levonelle (taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex) and EllaOne (can cover you up to 5 days afterwards) . You will be advised which pill is most suitable for you.
  • Each pill is just one tablet that is taken immediately

You need to monitor your period afterwards and you should take a pregnancy test and consult your GP if you are more than 5 days late.

Side-effects of the Morning-after pill

Side-effects are not long lasting but you may experience the following symptoms:
  • Nausea and occasional vomiting
  • Tiredness and dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting before your next period


  • A copper coil can be inserted in your womb as emergency contraception by a trained professional
  • It can be fitted from the time of unprotected sexual intercourse up to 5 days after the earliest theoretical date of ovulation (in the middle of your cycle)
  • The IUD can then remain in your womb and continue to act as contraception for at least 5 years
  • The IUD stops fertilisation on an egg and prevents it from implanting into your womb
  • The IUD is the most effective emergency contraception with rates of over 98%

Side-effects of the IUD

  • Due to the fact that the IUD needs to be fitted as soon as possible, there is not enough time to check for any infections. Therefore, there is a slight chance of you getting a womb infection - you may be given some antibiotics at the time that your IUD is inserted to reduce this risk
  • You may experience some light spotting or abdominal pain after the IUD is inserted

Further sources on information

You can find further reliable information on the Family Planning Association website:

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