Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed. Find out about the two types of emergency contraception: the emergency pill (morning after pill) and the IUD.
You can take emergency contraception in order to prevent pregnancy after you've had unprotected sex, or when you think your usual method of contraception might not have worked. There are two types:
•the emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the morning-after pill)
•the IUD (intrauterine device)
Where can I get emergency contraception?
You can get the emergency contraceptive pill and the IUD for free from:
•a GP surgery that provides contraception
•a contraceptive clinic (find a clinic)
•a sexual health clinic (find sexual health services)
•some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
•some young people's clinics (call 0800 567123)
You can also get the emergency contraceptive pill free from:
•some pharmacies (find pharmacies near you)
•most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
•some Accident and Emergency departments
You can buy the emergency contraceptive pill from most pharmacies if you're aged 16 or over, and from some organisations such as bpas or Marie Stopes. The cost varies, but it will be around £26.
The emergency contraceptive pill has to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It's more effective the sooner it's taken. It contains progestogen, and it works by delaying or preventing ovulation.
The emergency contraceptive pill ellaOne is a relatively new method. It can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after sex and is only available with a prescription. For more information about ellaOne, speak to a doctor or nurse.
If taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, the emergency contraceptive pill will prevent 95% of pregnancies that could be expected if no emergency contraception were used.
Eighty-five per cent of pregnancies are prevented if the pill is taken between 25 and 48 hours after unprotected sex, and up to 58% of pregnancies if taken 49-72 hours after unprotected sex. The sooner it's taken, the more effective it will be.
The IUD can be inserted into your uterus up to five days after unprotected sex, or up to five days after the earliest time that you could have ovulated. It may prevent an egg from implanting in your womb or being fertilised.
The IUD will prevent over 99% of pregnancies.
If you use the IUD as emergency contraception, you can also use it as an ongoing contraceptive method.
If you're not using a regular method of contraception, you might consider doing so in order to lower the risk of unintended pregnancy. Long-active reversible contraception (LARC) offers the most reliable protection against pregnancy, and you don't have to think about them every day or each time that you have sex. LARC methods are the injection, implant, IUS and IUD.
Yes, although it is not very likely. If you have sex without using contraception, you can conceive (get pregnant) at any time during your menstrual cycle, even during, or just after, your period.
You can also get pregnant even if you have never had a period before, during your first period, or after the first time you have sex.
There is no 'safe' time of the month when you can have sex without contraception, and not risk becoming pregnant. However, there are times during your menstrual cycle when you are at your most fertile, and this when you are most likely to conceive.
Your menstrual cycle begins on the first day of your period and continues up to the first day of your next period. You are most fertile at the time of ovulation, (when an egg is released from your ovaries) which usually occurs 10-16 days before your next period starts. This is the time of the month when you are most likely to get pregnant.
Therefore, while it is possible to conceive just after your period, it is not very probable.
However, it is important to remember that sperm can survive in the body for up to seven days after you have sex. This means that if your period lasts seven days, you could be just five days away from ovulation by the time it is finished. If you ovulate early, there will be even less time between the end of your period and the time when you are most fertile again.
You should always use contraception when you have sex if you do not want to become pregnant.
You can get help and advice on contraception from: