Emergency contraception can stop you becoming pregnant if you’ve had sex without using contraception, or if you think your contraception might have failed.
The two types of emergency contraception are the emergency contraceptive pill and the copper intrauterine device (IUD, sometimes called the coil).
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
- ellaOne, which must be taken within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex
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
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
GPs can prescribe the emergency contraceptive pill and offer advice.
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)
Another method of emergency contraception is the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD). 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
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.
Further information on contraception
For detailed information on emergency contraception, please see the NHS website.
See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception.