What is Emergency Contraception?
The emergency contraceptive pill or EC (sometimes wrongly called the ‘morning after pill’) is a medication that is taken to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex, for example if you did not use contraception, you missed a contraceptive pill, or had a condom break or slip off during sex.
EC contains a type of hormone, a progestogen called Levonorgestril. It may come as a single tablet or two tablets.
How does it work?
The emergency contraceptive pill works by delaying ovulation (the release of an egg from a woman’s ovaries).
If an egg is already fertilized or implanted in the womb and a pregnancy has started, EC will have no effect, it cannot cause an abortion.
How effective is it?
EC can prevent seven out of eight possible pregnancies if taken in the recommended time.
How do you take it?
If you have unprotected sex and you don’t want to get pregnant, you need to take the EC within 96 hours (four days) and preferably within 72 hours( 3 days).
Remember that emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is used after unprotected sex and is most effective when taken within 24 hours.
After taking EC you should keep on using other contraception, e.g. the Pill or condoms, for the rest of the cycle until you next period otherwise you could still become pregnant.
You can safely use EC more than once in a menstrual cycle.
Does it have any side effects?
EC is considered a very safe medication to use. Side effects are not common. Most women do not experience any side effects, however if they do occur they may include tiredness, nausea and possible changes to your menstrual cycle in the month that you take it.
Where can I get it?
EC is available from most pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription and from the Walk in Centre adjacent to The Canberra Hospital, (you need to be over 16 to access it from both these places).
The cost may vary considerably between different pharmacies. If cost is an issue for you it may be worth calling some nearby pharmacies ahead to find the cheapest one.
The pharmacist will need to ask you a few questions to ensure that it is safe for you to take this medication.
EC is also available from Canberra Sexual Health Centre, The Junction Youth Health Centre and from SHFPACT.
If you wish to access EC from SHFPACT please call the clinic on 62473077 before coming in if possible to ensure a nurse is on site to assist you.
NB If vomiting occurs for any reason less than two hours after you take a dose of EC you should take another dose. If vomiting occurs MORE than two hours after either dose, it is thought that the emergency contraception will remain effective, so there is no need to take another dose.
When to expect your period
Most women have a period at about the expected time, however it may be a little late or a little early. If your period is more than a week late, or if you have any other concerns, contact your health practitioner or SHFPACT clinic on 62473077 for advice.
This brochure contains information adapted from FPNSW.