Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy occurring after unprotected sex has taken place, for example when usual contraception has failed or has not been used.
There are two methods of emergency contraception:
the emergency pill (also known as the morning after pill), and
the copper IUD (intrauterine device).
Emergency pills are given as a single tablet, to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
You can get the emergency pill free from:
any contraception clinic
any young person's clinic or Brook clinic,
any STD clinic,
most doctor practices,
some pharmacies, and
some hospital accident and emergency departments.
The sooner the emergency pill is taken after sex the more effective it is. The success rate of the emergency pill is:
up to 95% successful if taken within 24 hours after sex
up to 85% successful if taken within 25-48 hours after sex, and
up to 58% successful if taken with 49-72 hours after sex.
The use of the emergency pill is not recommended after 72 hours as the chances of it working are greatly reduced. So it is advised you use the copper IUD (see below) as an alternative.
vomit within two hours of taking the pill you will need to take another, as it will not work.
Certain prescription medications and the herbal treatment St John's Wort can stop the emergency pill working. If you are taking prescription medication, or St John's Wort, inform your doctor, pharmacist, or clinic staff.
The copper IUD
The copper IUD is available from:
any contraception clinic,
any young person's clinic,
most doctor practices, and
some STD clinics.
The copper IUD is fitted in the womb by a doctor or nurse within five days of unprotected sex or the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulation). The IUD has almost a 100% success rate.
Women considering using a copper IUD will need to have an examination to check that there is no existing infection, such as an STD like
If you are diagnosed with a current chlamydial infection your doctor will delay insertion of the IUD until the infection has been treated.
You may not be able to use a copper IUD if you have had a previous
ectopic pregnancy (where a fertilized egg settles outside the womb in the
fallopian tubes) or have had previous problems with your womb or
The IUD can be used as your regular method of contraception. If you do not want to keep the IUD, it can be removed during your next period.
NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice,
diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your
physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere.
If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.