When to use emergency contraception

If you an accident with the condom or missed more than one of your birth control pills in the days following sexual intercourse, the “morning after pill” can greatly reduce the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Emergency contraception is available without prescription and it should be the ultimate solution against getting pregnant.

What is emergency contraception?

Often referred to as “the morning after pill”, emergency contraception consists of a dose of progestin, a hormone that will stop a woman becoming pregnant even if protection failed during intercourse. The emergency pill needs to be takes as soon as possible, preferably in the first 24 hours from intercourse, but no later than 72 hours. The longer you wait, the more its effectiveness decreases. When the pill is taken as directed, it is effective in 75% of the cases.

What happens after taking emergency contraception?

In the hours after taking the pill, nausea will appear in a quarter to half of the cases. Vomiting can occur in some instances as well. The morning after pill cannot in any way stop an already established pregnancy, even after repeated doses. It is advisable to take a pregnancy test if your period is late more than five days.

Where can you get emergency contraception?

If you think you need the morning after pill, you can get it for free in the UK from GP surgeries that offer contraceptive services, sexual health clinics, contraceptive clinics and some young people’s clinics. Alternatively, you can get the pill for free in the pharmacies and in the majority of NHS walk-in centres.

Emergency contraception should never be used as a principal method of preventing pregnancy. If you are not currently using a regular method of contraception, you should talk with your GP or a doctor at a family planning clinic about the options that are suitable for you. Some of the methods you may consider for long-term protection are birth control pills, the implant, the injection and the intrauterine device.

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