Emergency Contraception

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Emergency Contraception

All types of emergency contraception exert their effects before implantation takes place and are therefore not abortive. Emergency contraception works if you have had sex and did not use contraception, or if you think your contraception did not work. You need to act quickly to prevent pregnancy.

There are two forms of emergency contraception:

  • emergency contraception pills (the morning after pill)
  • insertion of an IUCD (by a doctor)

Frequently Asked Questions

The morning after pill how it works?

  1. The morning after pills contains a progestogen hormone which is similar to the natural progesterone women produce in their ovaries. It needs to be taken within three days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex to be effective.
  2. They work by stopping ovulation, or fertilization of an egg, or stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. It does not work if you are already pregnant. Medical research and legal judgment are quite clear that emergency contraception (the pill or an IUD) prevents pregnancy and is not abortion.

How do I take them?

  • Take the tablets as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours, and no later than 72 hours (3 days) after you have had unprotected sex. Swallow whole with a glass of water.

How effective is the morning after pill?

It is more effective the sooner it is taken. Of the pregnancies that could be expected to have occurred if no emergency contraception had been used the morning after pill will prevent:

  1. Up to 95% if taken within 24 hours
  2. Up to 85% if taken between 25-48 hours
  3. Up to 58% if taken between 49-72 hours.
The morning after pill is not as effective as other forms of contraception such as the pill or condoms if used regularly and do not protect you against sexually transmitted infections

They do not work if you:

  • take the pills more than 72 hours after unprotected sex
  • vomit within three hours after taking the pills
  • don't take the pills as instructed
  • have had unprotected sex at another time, either since your last period or since taking the pills..

What to know if you take the morning after pill?

You should be aware of the following if you do take the morning after pill:

  • your next period may be late or early. Contact your doctor if you are more than 5 days late.
  • If your period is unusually light or heavy or if you have sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen contact your doctor.
  • If you have had unprotected sex it is possible that you have contracted a Sexually Transmitted Infection. Some STIs are painful, some lead to infertility and while most are treatable some like HIV/AIDS have no cure and are potentially fatal. The morning after pill will not stop you from getting an STI or treat you if you have one so if you are worried speak to your doctor.

Also, contact your doctor if:

  • you think you may be pregnant
  • you want to talk about using regular contraception
  • you are worried that you might have caught an STI.

Who is it suitable for?

  • Almost every woman can use the morning after pill. However, if you are taking certain prescribed or complementary medicines, or suffer from particular illnesses you may need special advice, It is also worth asking our pharmacists if an intrauterine device is suitable for you.

Tell your pharmacist about any medicines you are taking or illnesses you may have.

Are there any side-effects?

  • There are no serious short - or long-term effects from using the morning after pill. However, some women may feel sick, dizzy or tired, or may get headaches, breast tenderness, diarrhea or lower abdominal (tummy) pain. These symptoms should get better within a few days.
  • A very small number of women will vomit. If you are sick, read the section "what to do if you are sick (vomit)".
  • Your periods may be disrupted.

Will the morning after pill protect me from pregnancy until my next period?

  • No. They will not protect you from pregnancy if you have further unprotected sex. Your doctor can give you information about different contraceptive choices.

Pregnancy and the morning after pill

The morning after pill has not been shown to affect a pregnancy or harm a developing fetus. As with any pregnancy, there is a small chance that an ectopic pregnancy may occur. If you think that you may be pregnant it is important to seek advice as soon as possible to check that you do not have an ectopic pregnancy.

The morning after pill is very effective and should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. However in some women it fails and they become pregnant even though the pill was taken correctly. You may also become pregnant if you:

  • delay taking the pill
  • vomit within 3 hours of taking the pill
  • have had unprotected sex at another time, either since your last period or since taking the pill.

What if I vomit within 3 hours of taking the morning after pill?

  • If you are sick (vomit) within three hours of taking the tablets, you will need to contact your McCabe’s pharmacist for advise as you will probably need to take more tablets.

Can I take it more than once in a year/month/lifetime?

  • Yes, you can. You can take the morning after pill more than once with no harmful effects, though it may disrupt your periods.
  • If you are regularly using it, we would suggest that you need to review your contraceptive choices as the pills are not as effective as using other methods of contraception and are more expensive.

Combining with regular contraceptive pill use

If you need the morning after pill because you forgot some of your regular pills or were unwell, you should take a pill again within 12 hours of the last dose of the morning after pill. You will need to use an additional contraceptive method, such as condoms until your contraceptive pill is effective again. This will vary depending on which type of pill you take. Our pharmacist will be happy to advise.

Intrauterine Device

The IUCD can be fitted by your doctor or family planning center but is not as widely available so phone ahead for an appointment. Both methods are available on the GMS (Medical Card Scheme) from your GP.

  • It is an effective contraceptive and should be considered.
  • It works by preventing the egg settling in the womb.

Where can you get the morning after pill?

The morning after pill is available from all McCabe’s Pharmacies after a consultation with the pharmacist. The pharmacist will ask you some questions to ensure it is appropriate for you. 

Find your local McCabes Pharmacy.