Emergency contraception is an effective means of preventing pregnancy following unprotected sex, or sex during which the method of contraception has failed – e.g. a split condom or a missed contraceptive pill.
There are two kinds of emergency contraception: the morning after pill and the intrauterine device (IUD). Emergency contraception is not designed as a primary source of contraception, but rather something to be taken when other methods are not available or fail.
Read on to find everything you need to know about the morning after pill, including where you can get it safely and swiftly.
The fast facts you need to know about emergency contraception
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding emergency contraception, so here are some of the key facts to help clear things up for you.
- Emergency contraception cannot be used to terminate a pregnancy. The morning after pill and the abortion pill are two completely different kinds of medication and should never be used interchangeably.
- Emergency contraception has no impact on your ability to conceive in the future. There is no evidence to suggest that even multiple uses of the morning after pill will make you less likely to get pregnant in the future.
- The morning after pill has up to a 95% effectiveness rating for preventing pregnancy. Less than one percent of women who use the IUD get pregnant.
- Emergency contraception can be taken up to 5 days after sex and still be effective, depending on the contraception you choose.
Your choice of contraception
Another misconception regarding emergency contraception is that it only comes in one form. In reality, there are several options available. As we mentioned above, the two main kinds of emergency contraception are the morning after pill and the IUD. There are also different kinds of morning after pill to choose from too.
These are Levonelle and ellaOne. Levonelle can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, though it is most effective in the first 12 hours. It works by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg and preventing sperm from fertilising any egg that may have been released.
Similarly, ellaOne can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. A dose consists of one tablet which works to inhibit or delay ovulation, helping to prevent pregnancy.
The IUD is a more long-term commitment to emergency contraception. It involves the insertion of a coil directly into the womb which then releases copper to stop the egg implanting in your womb or being fertilised.
The morning after pill: your questions answered
Who can use the morning after pill?
Most women can take the morning after pill safely, including women who can’t use hormonal contraception and breastfeeding mothers. It’s always best to check with your GP if you are currently taking any other prescription medication. You should also avoid the medication if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.
Can you use it alongside normal contraception?
You can use emergency contraception if you forget to take a dose of your regular contraceptive pill. If you have taken Levonelle, you should continue your normal course of contraception within 12 hours. After taking ellaOne, you should wait 5 days before taking your next contraceptive pill.
What are the side effects of the emergency pill?
There are no serious side effects to taking the morning after pill. However, it can cause mild, short-term side effects such as headaches, tummy pains, nausea and changes to the timing of your next period.