Emergency Contraception

If you’ve had sex without using contraception, or you think your contraception may have failed for some reason don’t panic – you can usually prevent pregnancy by using emergency contraception if you act fast

Emergency contraception is a safe, effective and responsible method of preventing pregnancy when regular contraception has failed, no contraception was used, and/or in the case of sexual assault. If you act quickly, emergency contraception will usually prevent pregnancy.
Emergency contraception will not prevent you from getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most STIs are treatable but they often do not have symptoms. If you have had unprotected sex, you should arrange to have an STI screening

When Should I Take Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)?

  • If you have had sex without using contraception
  • If you think your contraception failed (e.g. condom bursts or you forgot to take the pill)
  • If you were forced to have sex or don’t remember what happened the night before

You can use emergency contraception (morning after pill). This will usually stop you from becoming pregnant. Emergency contraception can be obtained through your GP, Chemists and family clinics. Most doctors prescribe emergency contraception but if you are unsure phone to find out.

What Do I Need To Know?

There are three forms of emergency contraception:

Emergency contraceptive pill – Levonelle

The emergency contraceptive pill Levonelle is sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’. However you can take Levonelle up to 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex and not just on the morning after.

The emergency contraceptive pill is more effective the sooner you take it. When you take it within 24 hours of unprotected sex, it is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. When it’s taken between 25-48 hours after unprotected sex it is 85% effective and when it’s taken between 49-72 hours after unprotected sex it is 58% effective at preventing pregnancy. So it’s important that you get advice on emergency contraception as soon as possible after having unprotected sex

The emergency contraceptive pill ellaOne

There is a new emergency contraceptive pill called ellaOne which can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

The ulipristal emergency contraceptive pill (ellaOne) is the most effective emergency contraceptive pill available. The progesterone and ulipristal emergency contraceptive pill are both available from pharmacies without a medical prescription, or from a doctor or family planning clinic. Both methods are available on a medical card

You may also have heard about another method IUD (post-coital). This method is not widely available in Ireland. It must be fitted within 5 days of having sex.

Emergency IUD

The IUD (intrauterine device) is a small device fitted inside the woman by a doctor or nurse. If it is used as emergency contraception, you must have it inserted within 5 days of sex and it must be worn until your next period. You have to go to a doctor (your own or in a family planning or health clinic) to have the IUD fitted. It’s a good idea to phone the clinic first and check if they fit IUDs.

Emergency contraception is for emergencies only and should not be used as your regular form of contraception. Remember emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Taking the Emergency Contraceptive Pill
• Take the ECP as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
• Inform the doctor or pharmacist if you are on any other medication. A small number of medications may reduce the effectiveness of the ECP and you may need a different dosage or an IUCD (see Method 3: Copper Intrauterine Device)
• If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the ECP, return to the doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible for a second dose or other advice.
• Taking different kinds of the ECP during the same cycle is not recommended as they work in different ways. If you need a second dose during your cycle, you must use the same ECP as your first dosage.
• Use other methods of contraception after taking the ECP as it does not provide contraception for the remainder of your cycle. In fact, if ovulation is only delayed, you could well be fertile in the following weeks.
• Be aware that there is a small risk of failure and you may still become pregnant.
• The ECP does not work if you are already pregnant.

After taking the ECP, go to a doctor or family planning clinic if:
• Your next period is more than 5 days late
• Your next period is unusually light or heavy
• You experience severe lower abdominal pain

What Are The Effects Of Emergency Contraception?

You might feel sick or dizzy after taking the emergency pill. This is normal but if you feel sick for more than 2 hours then speak to your doctor. The IUD can cause heavy periods or some blood spotting.

Medical update: Recent research suggests that the emergency contraceptive pill may be less effective in women whose weight exceeds 75kg. However, a recent review by the European Medicines Agency has found insufficient evidence to support this lack of efficacy. If you have any queries about emergency contraception and weight, please contact Ilash clinic, or your local doctor or family planning clinic.

Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill) Is Available From:

Republic of Ireland:

You can get the emergency contraceptive pill, for FREE  at Iash young women’s clinic (17-26 years ) at the Women’s Centre.


Emergency contraception can be obtained through Ilash, GP, chemists, family planning clinics. Most doctors prescribe emergency contraception but if you are unsure phone first to find out.

Check out our Where to Go section for a list of GPs, chemists, information on Donegal Women’s Centre and Irish Planning Association.


The cost of contraception varies depending on what form is most suitable to you, what providers are available to you and whether or not you have a medical card. Talk to a pharmacist, GP or Family Planning Clinic for more information on costs

Northern Ireland:

Emergency contraception is available from:

  • Brook Clinic
  • The Brae Clinic
  • Shantallow Health Centre
  • Great James Street
  • Strabane Health Centre
  • Limavady Health Centre

Price for the morning after pill at the above clinics varies.

*No charge at Brook clinic in Belfast.

Also available at the Boots Chemist, Foyleside, Derry. Call – 048 71 260432 (ROI) or 028 71 260432 (NI).

  • No prescription necessary (sold over the counter)
  • Must be over 16
  • The person who requires the emergency pill must ask for it in person
  • The pharmacist will ask you a few simple questions. (This information is private and confidential)
  • Price is £24.99 (sterling)