Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the contraception used failed- for example, if a condom has split or someone forgot to take their pill. There are two type of emergency contraception, the Emergency Contraceptive Pill and the Emergency Intrauterine Device.
If the emergency contraceptive pill is taken during the first half of the menstrual cycle, it works specifically to prevent ovulation – even if the egg is mature and ready to be released, it will not be, meaning the sperm cannot fertilise it.
If it's too late to prevent ovulation and the mature egg has already been released, the emergency contraceptive pill is believed to thicken cervical mucus and trap sperm. It may also directly inhibit fertilization between sperm and egg.
The IUD works by releasing copper to stop the egg implanting in the womb or being fertilised.
Levonelle is a pill that contains a hormone called levonorgestrel. This is a type of synthetic progestogen hormone, similar to the natural progesterone produced by the ovaries. This it is thought to stop or delay the release of an egg.
Must be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex
Side Effects: It can alter the timing of your next period, making it earlier or later. Some people may feel sick or may get headaches or a painful period. It is rare, but possible that taking the pill can make you be sick.
This form of emergency contraception is more effective at preventing pregnancy than a pill with levonorgestrel. ellaOne is a pill with the active ingredient ulipristal acetate (UPA). ellaOne is currently the only brand available containing UPA in the UK. This pill works by stopping progesterone from functioning normally and by stopping or delaying the release of an egg.
Must be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex
Side Effects: Although there are no serious long-term side effects, some people may feel sick or may get headaches or a painful period. It is rare, but possible that taking the pill can make you be sick. It can also alter the timing of your next period, making it earlier or later.
The IUD is a small plastic and copper device that's fitted in your uterus up to 5 days after unprotected sex or within 5 days of the earliest time you could've released an egg. Unlike regular contraceptive pills the IUD does not contain any hormones, it works by releasing copper to stop the egg implanting in your womb or being fertilised.
The IUD is the most effective method of emergency contraception and can be left in and used as on-going contraception.
Side Effects: The procedure to fit the IUD can be uncomfortable and potentially painful, it also carries a risk of infection. Some people experience stomach cramps and spotting after the procedure.
You can access the morning after pill for FREE from Jay's Pharmacy on Egham High Street. Jay's offer a quick and discreet service that is free of charge to people up to age 25.
You can also get both Levonelle and ellaOne for free at:
Unlike emergency contraceptive pills, you cannot get an IUD from your pharmacist as it needs to be fitted by a medical professional. If you’re unsure where to go, your pharmacist should be able to signpost you to the closest service such as:
Using emergency contraception is not the same as having an abortion. An abortion can only take place after a fertilised egg has implanted in the uterus, emergency contraception attempts to prevent ovulation (an egg being released), fertilisation, or a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus (womb).
Absolutely not, seeking emergency contraception is a responsible choice. Even the most thought-out plans can go wrong - it can happen so easily; you forget your pill or a condom splits.
Protecting yourself against unwanted pregnancy is certainly not something to be stigmatised.
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