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Emergency contraception

If you have had unprotected sex, or your contraception has failed, you could be at risk of getting pregnant.

What is emergency contraception?

  • You can use emergency contraception (the morning after pill) if you want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. You might want to do this if you have had sex without using contraception, or if contraception has failed — for example if a condom slipped or you missed taking your regular contraceptive pill.
  • There are two types of hormonal emergency contraception; the three day pill and the five day pill.
  • The IUD can be fitted as emergency contraception by a family planning clinic or trained doctor up to five days after unprotected sex.
  • Emergency contraception (morning after pill) is more effective if you take it as soon as possible after you have had unprotected sex.
  • While no method of emergency contraception is 100% successful, the copper coil is the most effective of the three options.
  • Emergency contraception does not provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Talk to your GP, family planning clinic or pharmacist about the best emergency contraception option for you. While you are there, it might be a good time to talk about regular contraception too.
  • Since 1 July 2017, medical card holders can get emergency contraception directly from a pharmacy, free of charge, without having to go to their GP for a prescription.
  • Click here for further information on your emergency contraception choices.

Remember: emergency contraception is more effective if you take it as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.

Emergency contraception (morning after pill) facts

  • Women of all ages can use emergency contraception (morning after pill) to prevent unplanned pregnancy if they have had sex without using contraception or their contraception has failed.
  • Many women who have had a crisis pregnancy did not think to use emergency contraception.
  • Emergency contraception is not suitable as a regular method of contraception and it does not prevent pregnancy in every woman.
  • Many women believe that emergency contraception can only be taken 3 times in their lifetimes - there is no evidence to support this.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that use of emergency contraception can cause infertility.
  • If you are already pregnant, emergency contraceptive pills or the coil will not work.
  • Emergency contraception does not provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections. Click here for further information on how to prevent STIs.