Morning after pill

The morning after pill, also known as the emergency contraceptive pill or emergency hormonal contraception, can be taken after having unprotected sex to prevent becoming pregnant.

The morning after pill should be taken as soon as possible after any unprotected sex because the earlier you take it, the more effective it is at preventing pregnancy. 95% of pregnancies are prevented if the morning after pill is taken within the first 24 hours, 85% if taken from 24–48 hours and 58% if taken from 48–72 hours after sex.

The morning after pill is not supposed to be taken regularly. It should be something to fall back on if your regular form of contraception (eg condoms) fails. Once taken it does not prevent pregnancy from any further unprotected sex you might have within the rest of your menstrual cycle (unless you attend for a subsequent prescription of emergency contraception). It also does not protect you from being transmitted STIs.

Further information on the morning after pill

The morning after pill is very safe to use. Infrequently, women who take it may experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness or tiredness, headaches, breast tenderness or abdominal pain. An irregular menstrual cycle after taking the morning after pill can commonly occur.

If you vomit within two hours of taking the morning after pill, it may not be fully absorbed, so you should come back for a repeat prescription and ask for anti–sickness medication to be taken at the same time. An alternative form of emergency contraception is the IUCD (copper coil). This is a small device that can be inserted into the womb and is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. It can remain there for up to 10 years as a regular form of contraception.

Our sexual health clinics can provide both types of emergency contraception (morning after pill and IUCD/coil)

There is a chance that the morning after pill can fail and you can fall pregnant. If your period is late/delayed, light or shorter than normal, consider having a pregnancy test. This is available free of charge in any of our sexual health clinics.


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