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Emergency Contraception

If you had sex and didn’t use a condom or any other method of contraception, or you think that the method of contraception you used has failed in some way, the chances are that you or your partner will become pregnant.

  • Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC), if taken within 72 hours, may prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
  • Some people call it the ‘morning after pill’ but it can be taken later than the ‘morning after’.
  • EHC is NOT a regular form of contraception and should not be used on a regular basis.
  • EHC does not protect you or your partner from Sexually Transmitted Infection’s (STI’s).

How does it work?

  • One small pill is taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.
  • There are two types of Emergency Contraception issued up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. (‘Levonelle’ is issued up to 72 hours and ‘Ella One’ up to 120 hours so it’s important that you speak to a pharmacist or health professional).
  • If taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, EHC will prevent 95 out of every 100 expected pregnancies.
  • Five out of every 100 expected pregnancies will not be prevented.
  • If taken between 48 and 72 hours after unprotected sex, 58 out of every 100 expected pregnancies will be prevented. This means 42 out of every 100 expected pregnancies will not be prevented.
  • They contain a hormone similar to those found in birth control pills (i.e. contraceptive pill).
  • The hormone is thought to work by preventing eggs being released and preventing fertilisation, and discouraging implantation into the lining of the womb.

Your next period should arrive when you’d normally expect it, though it might be a bit early or a bit late. If it doesn’t arrive within five days of your expected date or it is unusual in any way, go to your doctor, Community Sexual Health Clinic or Young People’s Clinic for advice.

What happens if I go past the 72 hours?

  • EHC may still be used up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex but it is much less effective than having an IUD fitted (also known as a ‘Coil’). Only specially trained community pharmacists across Halton and St Helens may supply EHC up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Always phone your nearest pharmacy (chemist) before you go and check that someone will be there who can give it to you. The IUD can be fitted at Community Sexual Health Clinics.
  • The IUD is a small piece of plastic wrapped in copper that’s fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a doctor.
  • The IUD may help to prevent an unwanted pregnancy if you can’t get EHC in time. An IUD will prevent 99 out of every 100 expected pregnancies.

Advantages of Emergency Contraception

  • A number of community pharmacists (chemists) in Halton and St Helens may sell or supply EHC. Phone your nearest pharmacy before you go and check that someone will be there who can give it to you. Some pharmacies may supply EHC free of charge. Ask first.
  • It is very easy to use – you only have to swallow one tiny tablet.
  • It may prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
  • It is a strictly confidential service – none of the staff will contact you about it or tell anyone about your visit.

Disadvantages of Emergency Contraception

  • It doesn’t protect you or your partner from STI’s.
  • You might suffer from side effects such as feeling sick, stomach ache, dizziness, being sick and a headache.
  • If you are sick after taking EHC, you should go back to see someone again for advice.
  • If you get EHC from a community pharmacy it might cost you up to £25 (correct in January 2013).

Remember!

  1. EHC is not a regular method of contraception.
  2. EHC does not protect you from getting STI’s. Condoms DO.
  3. Always try to call first to see if you can get it for free, if not, ask someone if they can tell you where you CAN get it for free.
  4. See Contraception on how to protect yourself properly.

If you are under 16 you may have to go to your doctor. There are some specially trained pharmacists allowed to supply EHC to anyone under 16 – make a telephone call before you go, if your usual pharmacist cannot help he or she will be able to tell you where to go.

Where can I get it?

You can get emergency contraception from doctors, Community Sexual Health Clinics, Accident & Emergency Department at Whiston, Halton or Warrington Hospital, the Sexual Health Clinic and most services for young people.

Emergency Hormonal Contraception is provided free of charge at the following Pharmacies BUT ALWAYS CHECK FIRST – perhaps give them a call before you go incase the trained pharmacist is not there.

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