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Your emergency contraception choices

There are different emergency contraception (morning after pill) choices for different situations, depending on when you had your last period and how long it has been since you had unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed. Emergency contraception is more effective the sooner you take it after having unprotected sex.

Ask a pharmacist for a private consultation or talk to a GP or Family Planning Clinic about the best option for you. You can also use this time to discuss regular contraception.

The following information gives you an outline of the choices available.

Three Day Pill (Prevenelle or Norlevo)

Time limit for use after unprotected sex: 72 hours (3 days)

Effectiveness: 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 12 hours after unprotected intercourse. It is less effective on day two and day three. It will be less effective if you have already used the five day pill in the same cycle.

Available: Norlevo is available directly from pharmacists. Prevenelle and Norlevo are available on prescription from GPs (including out of hours co–ops) or Family Planning Clinics.

Works by: Delaying ovulation in the first 14 days of your cycle.

Future protection: After using emergency contraception, it’s important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the following:

  • what to do if you are already using regular contraception
  • when you can expect your next period
  • what to do if your period doesn’t come
  • a regular contraceptive option suitable for you

Cost: 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.

Five Day Pill (EllaOne)

Time limit for use after unprotected sex: 120 hours (5 days)

Effectiveness: 99.5% effective but should be taken as soon as possible. EllaOne may be less effective if you are on some hormonal contraceptives or if you have taken other emergency contraceptives in the same cycle.

Available: EllaOne is available directly from pharmacists. Medical card holders do not need a prescription from a GP (including out of hours co–ops) or Family Planning Clinic.

Works by: Delaying ovulation before the peak of ovulation producing hormones.

Future protection: After using emergency contraception, it’s important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the following:

  • what to do if you are already using regular contraception
  • when you can expect your next period
  • what to do if your period doesn’t come
  • a regular contraceptive option suitable for you

Cost: 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.

The Copper Coil (Post Coital IUD)

Time limit for use after unprotected sex: 120 hours (5 days)

Effectiveness: 99.9% effective. Can be inserted any time up to a week before your period. Most doctors prefer to do it within five days of unprotected sex. It can be used after you have already taken one of the oral emergency contraceptions.

Available: Can be inserted by specially trained GPs or Family Planning Clinics.

Works by: Preventing sperm from joining an egg and preventing the fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus. The copper coil is effective even after ovulation has occurred, unlike the three and five day pill.

Future protection: Can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years as a regular method of contraception. This will depend on the type of IUD you have had inserted. Usually the IUD will work over the course of five years. It can be removed if required at your next period.

Cost: Copper coils are cost effective. The copper coil can cost between €25-30. The insertion fee can range from €100-200.

Since 1st 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.