Preventing pregnancy after having unprotected sex

If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, you might be worried out about what to do next. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read below for a timeline of the steps you should take to prevent a pregnancy following unprotected sex.

0 – 72 HOURS after (5 DAYS)

No need to freak out yet. While our bodies are all different and it varies from person to person, it can take as many as 3 days after having unprotected sex for the sperm to reach the egg for fertilisation. There are two safe and effective ways to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after having unprotected sex:

  • Emergency contraception (morning-after pill): Depending on the type, the morning after pill can be effective for 3-5 days after unprotected sex. You’ll need a prescription from a nurse or doctor to get the morning after pill so make sure you get to a pharmacy or clinic as soon you can, to avoid any delays.
  • Emergency Contraception (intrauterine device or “Copper T”): The IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception, has no hormones and also provides ongoing contraception for up to 10 years (also known as a long acting reversible contraceptive).

2 – 3 WEEKS after

  • Check for early signs of pregnancy. Some symptoms of pregnancy are listed below. It’s important to know these symptoms can also be associated with a variety of other things. Be sure to pay attention to the history of your period, your regular menstrual symptoms, and if you’re experiencing new symptoms.
    • Missed period. This may be obvious, but remember there are many health reasons someone could miss their period. But, if you’re usually regular with your period and it’s been 3 or 4 days and you still haven’t had it, this may be a sign.
    • During early pregnancy, women face higher levels of hormones, causing them to feel tired.
    • Swollen breasts. Your breasts may feel fuller or heavier due to a higher level of hormones since conception.
  • Take a pregnancy test. Sometimes, home pregnancy tests can give you a false-negative, meaning that the test shows you’re not pregnant, but you actually could be. To be sure, visit your closest clinic to receive a free and confidential pregnancy test. If the test turns out positive, they will assess your pregnancy.

0 – 9 WEEKS after

  • If you are considering an abortion, a medical abortion (medication such as pills or tablets are provided to terminate the pregnancy) is available up to 9 weeks into the pregnancy.
  • The length of the process is different for each person but it usually takes a few days (a follow up visit to the clinic will be required). 
  • You may experience symptoms similar to a miscarriage after taking the medication.
  • The cramping and bleeding caused by the pills can last for several hours. It’s basically an extremely heavy period, but don’t worry – your nurse or doctor will explain how to handle the pain and heavy bleeding.

0 – 12 WEEKS after

  • Surgical abortions involve a nurse (up to 12 weeks of pregnancy) or a doctor (from 12 to 20 weeks) conducting a same-day procedure in a clinic or hospital, to remove the pregnancy from the womb.
  • You might be given the same medication used in a medical abortion to get the process going. This happens either a few hours or 1 to 2 days before the operation, depending on the medicine used.
  • Usually, you won’t bleed as much as a medical abortion once the surgical abortion is complete.


  • Don’t use emergency contraception as your only protection from pregnancy because it’s not as effective as regular, non-emergency contraceptive methods (e.g. the implant, IUD, pill, or condoms).
  • If you have sex (or think you might have it in the future), take the B-Wise contraceptive quiz and choose the best method for you!

Learn about the different contraceptive options in this article

Find out more about the morning-after pill here

Share Article:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp