Morning After Pill (Emergency Contraceptive Pill)

  • 85 - 99 % Effective
  • No STI Protection
  • Single use

What is the emergency contraceptive pill?

The emergency contraceptive pill is sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’. It is used to to prevent pregnancy if you had sex with no contraceptive protection. For example, when there is a broken condom, missed or late pills or no contraception used. 

You can choose emergency contraceptive pills or the copper IUD for emergency contraception.  

The emergency contraceptive pill is available in two types: 

  • Ulipristal acetate (sold as EllaOne®); and 
  • Levonorgestrel (multiple brands).
Fpv Emergency Contraception Pill
photo of emergency contraceptive pill

How effective is the emergency contraceptive pill?

Emergency contraceptive pills works around 85% of the time in preventing pregnancy. The ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill is more effective at preventing pregnancy than the levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill.

Another emergency contraception option is the copper IUD. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. See the copper IUD page for more information.

What stops the emergency contraceptive pill from working?

Emergency contraceptive pills may not work if:

  • You are taking certain medications (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)
  • Are late taking them
  • Vomit within 2-3 hours of taking them

How do I use the emergency contraceptive pill?

The emergency contraceptive pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The contraceptive pill can be taken up to 4 or 5 days after unprotected sex, depending on the type of pill you take. (Speak to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist for further information) 

illustration of person taking medication

How does the emergency contraceptive pill work?

The emergency contraceptive pill prevents or delays the ovaries releasing an egg.

illustration of eggs not being released by ovaries

If you have unprotected sex again you may need another dose. 

Where can I get the emergency contraceptive pill?

You can buy the emergency contraceptive pill at a pharmacy. 

What is good about the emergency contraceptive pill?

  • You do not need a script from a doctor to buy an emergency contraceptive pill.

Are there any side effects from using the emergency contraceptive pill?

Emergency contraceptive pills can change the amount of bleeding foryour next period. It may also make your period late or earlier, or it may come as you normally expect. If your period is more than seven days late or lighter than usual,take a pregnancy test as soon as you can.

Other possible effects for a small number of users can include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Sore/ tender breasts 

Can the emergency contraceptive pill cause any serious health problems?

There are no known serious risks from taking emergency contraceptive pills.

Reasons why the emergency contraceptive pill might not be a good option for you:

  • Are taking certain types of medication, including other contraceptives (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist) 
  • Are taking levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill and are overweight (you may need to double dose)
  • Are taking ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill and are breastfeeding

What happens if I get pregnant while I’m using the emergency contraceptive pill?

Emergency contraceptive pills won’t harm the pregnancy. It is safe to continue the pregnancy or to have an abortion.

Can I use the emergency contraceptive pill after I’ve had a baby?

Emergency contraceptive pills are safe to take at any stage after having a baby. 

If you are breast feeding:

The levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill is safe to take at any time after having a baby. It will not affect your breast milk.

The ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill is safe to take at any time after having a baby. But it can affect your breast milk. You need to express and throw out breast milk for seven days after taking it. 

What else should I know about the emergency contraceptive pill?

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Where to get more information, support or advice


Translated factsheets

Emergency contraceptive pill - Arabic

Emergency contraceptive pill - Chinese

Emergency contraceptive pill - Hindi

Emergency contraceptive pill - Vietnamese

This is general information only, you should speak to your doctor for advice and further instruction.

Last updated: 28 June 2018