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Emergency contraceptive pill

A worried looking teenage girl holding a pill packet

How it works

The emergency contraception pill contains progestogen hormones, which stop any fertilised egg from settling into the wall of the uterus(womb) and developing into a baby. It is sometimes called the 'morning after' pill - but in fact it works for up to 72 hours - which is the same as 3 days - after having unprotected sex.

'Unprotected' sex means when you did not use any contraception or the condom breaks or a pill was not taken correctly. Most girls get emergency contraception from their family doctor (with a free prescription) or a family planning clinic or a young peoples clinic. If you are over 16 you can buy emergency contraception over the counter from a chemist - but it's not cheap getting it this way.

The oops factor

Very good - only 2% ooops factor. The sooner you take it the better it works (but you don't need to wake the doctor in the middle of the night). Remember if you run out of time and it's more than 72 hours (3 days) all is not lost. You can still use an emergency intra-uterine contraceptive device.


  • It's free from your doctor.
  • It stops you getting pregnant.
  • It prevents you possibly needing an abortion.
  • It's very easy to use.
  • It has few side effects.
  • You can use more than once


  • You have go get the pill.
  • You have to remember to take the pill.
  • It gives you no protection against sexually transmitted infections - AIDS, chlamydia, herpes etc.
  • Some women feel a bit sick after taking the pills- if you vomit within 2 hours of taking it, you need to take another dose.
  • Some doctors are unhappy about prescribing it - if you find one of these doctors ask to see another one.
  • Can interact with some medicines