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Emergency Contraception

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In the event of unprotected sex or failure from contraception used (for example a condom has split or you have missed the pill), contact your nearest PCG Pharmacy who can assist with emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy.

There are 2 types of emergency contraception:

  1. the emergency contraceptive pill – Levonelle or ellaOne (the "morning after" pill)
  2. the intrauterine device (IUD or coil)

At a glance: facts about emergency contraception

  • You need to take the emergency contraceptive pill within 3 days (Levonelle) or 5 days (ellaOne) of unprotected sex for it to be effective – the sooner you take it, the more effective it'll be.
  • The IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or up to 5 days after the earliest time you could have ovulated, for it to be effective.
  • The IUD is more effective than the contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy – less than 1% of women who use the IUD get pregnant.
  • Taking the emergency contraceptive pills Levonelle or ellaOne can give you a headache or tummy pain and make you feel or be sick.
  • The emergency contraceptive pill can make your next period earlier, later or more painful than usual.
  • If you're sick (vomit) within 2 hours of taking Levonelle or 3 hours of taking ellaOne, go to your GP, pharmacist or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic, as you'll need to take another dose or have an IUD fitted.
  • If you use the IUD as emergency contraception, it can be left in and used as your regular contraceptive method.
  • If you use the IUD as a regular method of contraception, it can make your periods longer, heavier or more painful.
  • You may feel some discomfort when the IUD is put in, but painkillers can help.
  • There are no serious side effects of using emergency contraception.
  • Emergency contraception doesn't cause an abortion.

Who can use the emergency pill?

Most women can use the emergency contraceptive pill. This includes women who can't use hormonal contraception, such as the combined pill and contraceptive patch. Girls under 16 years old can also use it.

But you may not be able to take the emergency contraceptive pill if you're allergic to anything in it, have severe asthma or take any medicines that may interact with it, such as:

  • the herbal medicine St John's Wort
  • some medicines used to treat epilepsyHIVor tuberculosis (TB)
  • medicine to make your stomach less acidic, such as omeprazole
  • some less commonly used antibiotics (rifampicin and rifabutin)

ellaOne can't be used if you're already taking one of these medicines, as it may not work. Levonelle may still be used, but the dose may need to be increased.

Tell your pharmacist what medicines you're taking, and they can advise you if they're safe to take with the emergency contraceptive pill.

You can also read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine for more information.

If you're under 16 years old

Contraception services are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16.

If you're under 16 and want contraception, rest assured your pharmacist will not tell your parents (or carer) as long as they believe you fully understand the information you are given, and the decisions you're making.

PCG Pharmacists work under strict guidelines when dealing with people under 16. They will encourage you to consider telling your parents, but they will not make you.