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Emergency Contraception - Questions and Answers...

There's two main types of contraception - General contraception like condoms, the pill etc - or emergency contraception. This section is for emergency contraception for general contraception click here

What is it?

Emergency contraception is used after unprotected sex to try to prevent you from getting pregnant. Unprotected sex is when you have had sex and used no contraception or you think your contraception has not worked.

If you have had sex without a condom, or you think your contraception hasn't worked, it is better to take emergency contraception rather than waiting to see if you are pregnant.

Click here to find out where your nearest clinic is.

How does it work?

There are two methods:

1) Pills

You have got up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to take this method. A doctor or family planning nurse will ask you some questions about your periods and your general health. They will give you 2 pills to take, one straight away and the other for 12 hours later.

This method is suitable for almost everybody. The pills may stop an egg being released (ovulation), delay ovulation or stop the fertilising egg settling in your womb (implanting).

2) A coil or intra-uterine device (IUD)

You have a coil fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. This does involve an examination by a doctor. This method is not suitable for everyone. Most people find that they can get emergency contraception within 72 hours and don't need to use this method.

The coil may stop an egg from being fertilised or implanting in your womb.

How effective is it?

Emergency contraception works better the sooner it is used after unprotected sex. It prevents approximately 3 out of 4 pregnancies that would have occurred if it had not been taken.

Where can I get it?

You can get emergency contraception from:

  • A GUM/Sexual Health Clinic A family planning or contraception clinic.

  • Any Doctor (you can be seen as a temporary resident)

  • The local hospital - via the senior midwife on call or casualty.

You can be seen as an emergency, but you will need to tell the receptionist/nurse what you want. You may have to wait for a doctor or family planning nurse to become available to see you.

What if it doesn't work?

If after taking emergency contraception your period is very light and short, or does not appear at all, you will need to see a doctor or a family planning nurse to have a pregnancy test. This is done from a sample of urine and you will get an answer within a few minutes. It takes 2 weeks after falling pregnant for a pregnancy test to show positive.

If you are pregnant, whoever has done the test will talk to you about your options and will help and support you.

What about infection?

If you have risked pregnancy, you have risked picking up a Sexually transmitted infection (STI). You may have no symptoms, but it is best to make an appointment at your nearest clinic.

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