Emergency contraception

If you have had sex without using contraception, or think your contraception might have failed, you can use emergency contraception.

Emergency contraceptive pill

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill: Levonorgestrel, which must be taken within three days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex, and ellaOne, which must be taken within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex.

Levonorgestrel

Levonorgestrel can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex but the sooner it is taken, the more effective it is.

  • Levonorgestrel is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex
  • If taken between 25 and 48 hours after unprotected sex, Levonorgestrel is 85% effective
  • When taken between 49 and 72 hours after unprotected sex it is 58% effective at preventing pregnancy

ellaOne

If taken within 120 hours after having unprotected sex, ellaOne is almost 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Where to get the emergency contraceptive pill

You can get the emergency contraceptive pill for free at any of the following places, even if you're under 16:

  • Umbrella clinics
  • Umbrella pharmacies
  • Some NHS walk-in centres
  • Some accident and emergency departments

Find Umbrella clinics and pharmacies

GPs can prescribe the emergency contraceptive pill.

If you're over 16, you can also buy the Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill from most pharmacies. It costs around £25.

Copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD)

You can have the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD) fitted. The IUD is a small device that is fitted in your uterus (womb) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is over 99% effective, but it needs to be fitted within five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex or up to five days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (ovulated).

The IUD can be fitted at:

  • an Umbrella clinic
  • some GPs

Find an Umbrella clinic

Not sure which type of contraception is right for you? Worried because you've had sex without a condom? Let us help you choose the right option.

Find the right service for you

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

View FPA leaflets