Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if you have had unprotected sex or if you think that your method of contraception may have failed. If this has occurred and you don’t want to be pregnant you need to act as soon as possible.

There are two types of Emergency Contraception:

  • the emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the morning after pill)
  • the IUD (intrauterine device, or coil)

Emergency contraceptive pill: There are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pill. Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of sex, and ellaOne has to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of sex. Both pills work by preventing or delaying ovulation (release of an egg). Emergency contraception is best taken as soon as possible to be effective. It becomes less effective the longer you leave before taking it.

IUD: The IUD can be inserted into your uterus up to five days after unprotected sex or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated. It may stop an egg from being fertilised or implanting in your womb. Less than 1% of women who use the IUD get pregnant. Therefore, it is more effective than the emergency contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy. It can also be left in and used as your regular contraceptive method.

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You can get emergency contraception for free locally from your GP surgery (you do not need to be registered with the GP you visit but it is best to ring first to confirm that they offer it) and sexual health clinics. To contact GP out of Hours Service, call NHS 111 for advice. North Yorkshire Pharmacies provide emergency contraception pills to buy over the counter. Some North Yorkshire pharmacies are able to issue emergency hormonal contraception for free for those under 25. Online pharmacies may offer emergency contraception pills to buy for those over the age of 18.

For further information about sexual health and contraceptive services in York and North Yorkshire please visit yorsexualhealth.org.uk.