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.
BEFORE THE NEXT TIME YOU HAVE SEX
- 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