There are different emergency contraception choices, depending on when you had your last period and how long it has been since you had sex.
There are 2 types of emergency contraception:
- the emergency contraception pill, also known as the "morning after pill”
- the copper coil, a type of intrauterine device (IUD)
Talk to your GP, family planning clinic or pharmacist about the best emergency contraception option for you.
You can use emergency contraception pills at any age. There are no serious side effects of using emergency contraception.
The emergency contraception pill
The emergency contraception pill is also known as the "morning after pill.”
3 day pill
The 3 day pill works by delaying ovulation in the first 14 days of your cycle. You can take it 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex.
It is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 12 hours after unprotected sex.
It is less effective:
- on day 2 and day 3 after unprotected sex
- if you have already used the 5 day pill in the same cycle
5 day pill
This can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) of sex to prevent pregnancy. It is 99.5% effective, but should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
It works by delaying ovulation before the peak of ovulation producing hormones. This pill may be less effective if you are on some hormonal contraceptives or if you have taken other emergency contraceptive pills in the same cycle.
How to get the emergency contraception pill
Norlevo is available directly from pharmacists. Prevenelle and Norlevo are available on prescription from a GP or family planning clinics.
The emergency contraception pill is included in the free contraception scheme.
After taking the emergency contraception pill
If you're sick (vomit) after taking the emergency contraception pill, go to your GP, pharmacist or family planning clinic. You may need to take another dose or have an IUD fitted.
The emergency contraception pill can make your next period earlier, later or more painful than usual.
There is no evidence to suggest that emergency contraception pills can:
- cause infertility
- only be taken a certain number of times in your life
After using the emergency contraception pill, it’s important to talk to your GP or pharmacist about:
- what to do if you are already using regular contraception
- when you can expect your next period
- what to do if your period does not come
- a regular contraceptive option suitable for you
The copper coil (IUD)
The copper coil can be fitted as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex or up to 5 days after the earliest date of ovulation, whichever is earlier.
The copper coil is 99.9% effective. It can be used after you have already taken an emergency contraception pill.
You can get the copper coil fitted at a family planning clinic or at your GP if they provide this service.
How it works
It 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 happened, unlike the emergency contraception pill. The copper coil is the only form of contraception that will be effective once ovulation has taken place.
If you use the copper coil as emergency contraception, it can be left in and used as your regular contraceptive method.
The copper coil can be left in your uterus for up to 10 years. This will depend on the type of IUD you had inserted. Usually it will work over the next 5 years. But it can be removed at your next period if you want it removed.
The copper coil is not free as emergency contraception under the free contraception scheme.
If you want to use a copper coil as emergency contraception, you will need to pay for the device. The cost of the GP appointment and insertion is covered if you are aged between 17 and 30.