Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is contraception that can be taken when you have had unprotected sex –through a condom breaking, sex without a contraceptive or condom or if you have not used your contraception correctly (forgotten to take a pill or have not had your injection on the date given to you). 

There are two types of emergency contraception: The emergency contraception pill (also known as the morning-after pill) and the IUD. Both can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex if used within 5 days, but the sooner the better.  

How do they work?

The emergency contraception pill makes sure that your body is unable to become pregnant. It works by stopping or delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg. This pill has hormones that are similar to oral contraceptives, but have a much higher dose. It also works by changing the lining of the womb to stop a fertilized egg from being implanted. The IUD prevents fertilisation. 

When should I take emergency contraception?

The sooner you use emergency contraception after unprotected sex, the better your chances of preventing pregnancy.

You can use emergency contraception up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex but the sooner you use it, the more effective it is. 

Where can I get emergency contraception? 

You can get emergency contraception from your clinic, from some pharmacies and from your doctor. 

Fast facts to know:

  • Emergency contraception is to be used when: a condom breaks or slips off during sex, another contraceptive method has been defaulted on (e.g. forgot to take pill, missed injection) and in cases of rape.
  • This pill can be taken up to 3-5 days after you have unprotected sex, but it is most effective when taken after 72 hours (3 days).
  • It is free at your local clinic and can be cheap at some pharmacies.

Remember, if you have had unprotected sex, you may also be at risk for HIV and STIs, so discuss what to do with your healthcare provider.  

Your healthcare provider may recommend PEP which is medication you take after possibly being exposed to HIV

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