Contraception

Emergency Contraception

If you have had unprotected sex in the last 5 days or you think that your contraceptive may have failed, you may be able to have emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy.

There are two main types of emergency contraception available:

  • The emergency contraceptive pill which can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after sex
  • The intrauterine device (IUD) – sometimes called the coil – which can be fitted up to 5 days after sex or later in some circumstances

Emergency Contraceptive Pill

There are 2 types of emergency contraceptive pill and they work by stopping or delaying an egg being released or by stopping a fertilized egg settling/ implanting in the womb.

a) Levonelle

This emergency contraceptive pill is a single tablet containing levonorgestrel which is a hormone that is similar to the natural progesterone women produce in their ovaries. This pill should be taken within 3 days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex although it is more effective if taken closer to the unprotected sex.

b) ElllaOne

This emergency contraceptive pill is a single tablet containing ulipristal which is a progestogen blocker. This pill should be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex. It is therefore usually given to women that come after 3 days, so too late for Levonelle, and who are not keen to have an emergency coil fitted.

Copper IUD

The emergency coil is sometimes referred to as the copper coil or IUD. It is a small plastic and copper device that is put into your womb. It can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex and at any time during the menstrual cycle providing that this is the ONLY unprotected sex that has occurred since your last period.

If you have had unprotected sex more than once since your last period, then an IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulation).

The emergency copper IUD may be the most effective form of emergency contraception as it prevents up to 98% of expected pregnancies.

Where to get Emergency Contraception From

You can access advice and information about emergency contraception from our Contraception Service or from: