This is a form of contraception that can be used after unprotected sex – whether you have not used any contraception at all or whether your normal contraception has failed (a split condom, missed pill etc).

It should not be seen as a regular method of contraception however and it is highly advised that you use a reliable method each and every time you have sex. You must also be aware of the additional risks of having unprotected sex. These may include and are not limited to sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. To view the range of reliable contraceptive methods available click on Safety Methods.

There are primarily two methods of emergency contraception:

Up to three days: emergency contraceptive pill.


Description: commonly referred to as the ‘morning after pill’, emergency contraception must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the sooner the better. The pill works by stopping an egg from being released, stopping the sperm from reaching an egg, or preventing a fertilised egg from settling in the uterus. Note that the emergency contraception pill is more effective the sooner you take it – ideally within 12 hours of unprotected sex.

Availability: free from GPs, family planning clinics or at your local Brook clinic.

Effectiveness: 95% effective if taken within 12 hours after unprotected sex; 54% effective if taken 72 hours after unprotected sex. If however you take it after 72 hours you may still fall pregnant and it important to go for pregnancy testing.

Up to five days: intrauterine device (IUD) (Coil)


If it is too late for you to take the emergency contraceptive pill then you can still have an IUD, also known as a coil, inserted in the womb up to five days after unprotected sex, to prevent an unplanned pregnancy from occurring.

Description: The IUD works by stopping an egg from being fertilised or implanted in the uterus and can be left inside the womb as a form of regular contraception or removed after a normal period.

Availability: It can only be fitted by a doctor. This can easily be done by your GP, a family planning clinic, or from a Brook (if under 25) clinic.

Effectiveness: 98%-99%.