Emergency contraception can prevent you from becoming pregnant if your usual contraception has failed, or if you have had unprotected sex.
The morning-after pill that's most frequently used in the UK is called Levonelle One Step or Levonelle 1500. It should be taken within three days (72 hours) of you having unprotected sex.
Levonelle may stop an egg being released from your ovaries,may alter the lining of your womb and may prevent a sperm from fertilising an egg. They also alter the lining of your womb to prevent the fertilised egg from embedding itself there.
The sooner you take emergency contraception after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, the more effective it is. If you take Levonelle within the first 24 hours, it is 95% effective. If taken after this time, the success rate is around 85% if between 25 and 48 hours ,up to 58% if taken between 49 and 72 hours.
Emergency contraception is useful who have had unprotected sex or whose regular contraceptive has failed. This method of emergency contraception will not work if you are already pregnant. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. You may want to use it if:
- The condom broke or slipped off, and he ejaculated in your vagina.
- You forgot to take your birth control pills, insert your ring, or apply your patch.
- Your diaphragm or cap slipped out of place, and he ejaculated inside your vagina.
- You miscalculated your "safe" days.
- He didn't pull out in time.
- You weren't using any birth control.
- You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex
If you are under 25 you can get emergency contraception l FREE from number of pharmacies go to ‘get me there’ to find one near you. If you are over 25 you can make an appointment with your Doctor or at one of the community contraception clinics where emergency contraception is free to women of all ages.
Most women can take emergency contraception, even those who have been advised not to take the regular ongoing contraceptive pill. This includes women with a family or past history of breast cancer and women who smoke. Emergency contraception has relatively few side effects and there is no evidence that using emergency contraceptive pills damages your future fertility.
Some medicines, both prescription and complimentary, can have a negative effect on the efficacy of emergency contraception. You should always inform your pharmacist/doctor if you are taking any medication before taking the emergency contraceptive pill.
The newer emergency contraceptives have reduced the chance of you experiencing nausea by half, compared to older pills. It's estimated that nausea affects less than a quarter of women who emergency contraception and only 1 in 60 women are actually physically sick after taking it.
There is also a new emergency contraception called ellaOne, which can be taken up to five days after you have unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy although you can only get this from your GP.
Another alternative is an IUD, which is a small plastic and copper device that is fitted to the womb to prevent an egg from being fertilised. An IUD can be fitted up to five days after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. They are 98% effective, and once fitted can continue to offer protection against conception for three to ten years.
IUDs need to be fitted by a doctor or nurse and although IUDs are successful for most women, a small number find the device uncomfortable to wear and may find it unsuitable.
Each pack of emergency contraceptives contains a single pill. You must swallow the pill with water as soon after unprotected sex as possible. You will be asked to do this when you are in the consultation room with the pharmacist.
Emergency contraception is effective only once in protecting pregnancy per menstrual cycle. You should continue to wear a condom to prevent conception. If you are taking a continuous form of contraception, you should still wear a condom at least until you start a new cycle.
Emergency contraception offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to protect against infection is to wear a barrier contraceptive, such as a condom. Emergency Contraception should be taken as soon as possible, in order to have the greatest chance of preventing an unwanted pregnancy. If it is longer than 72 hours since you had unprotected sex, you should make an appointment to see your Doctor or contact one of the community contraception services.