Ectopic Pregnancy

Emergency contraception: emergency pills and IUD - Contraception help - FPA

If you have had unprotected sex, that is, sex without using contraception, or think your contraception might have failed, you can use emergency contraception.


There are different types of emergency contraception: the emergency contraceptive pill, Levonelle the emergency contraceptive pill, ellaOne the emergency intrauterine device (IUD).


Emergency contraception can be very effective especially if you have an IUD fitted or if the emergency contraceptive pill is taken soon after sex.


Your Guide to Emergency Contraception (PDF) About emergency contraception Does emergency contraception cause an abortion? Where can I get emergency contraception? How do I buy Levonelle from a pharmacist? How will I know if my emergency contraception has worked? Am I protected from future pregnancy? Emergency contraceptive pill – Levonelle What is Levonelle? Who can use Levonelle? What are the disadvantages of Levonelle? How will Levonelle affect my next period? Do I need to see a doctor or nurse after I've taken Levonelle? Can Levonelle fail? Can I continue to use my usual contraception after taking Levonelle? Emergency contraceptive pill – ellaOne What is ellaOne? Who can use ellaOne? What are the disadvantages of ellaOne? How will ellaOne affect my next period? Do I need to see a doctor or nurse after I've taken ellaOne? Can ellaOne fail? Can I continue to use my usual contraception after taking ellaOne? Emergency IUD What is an emergency IUD? Who can use an emergency IUD? What are the disadvantages of an emergency IUD? How will an emergency IUD affect my next period? Do I need to see a doctor or nurse after having an emergency IUD fitted? Can an emergency IUD fail? Can I continue to use my usual contraception after having an emergency IUD fitted?


No. Emergency contraception may stop ovulation, fertilisation of an egg, or a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus (womb).


Medical research and legal judgement are quite clear that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy and is not abortion. Abortion can only take place after a fertilised egg has implanted in the uterus.


You can get emergency contraception free from these places, but they may not all supply ellaOne or fit the IUD. Any general practice that provides contraceptive services. A contraception clinic. Any young person's service or Brook clinic. Any sexual health clinic. Some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.


You can also get Levonelle free from: most NHS walk-in centres (in England only) some pharmacies (there may be age restrictions) most NHS minor injuries units some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check).


You can buy Levonelle from: most pharmacies if you are 16 years old or over some fee-paying clinics.


Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about getting emergency pills in advance, just in case you need them.


It will cost around £25. The pharmacist may not be able to sell it to you, for example if: it has been more than 72 hours since you had unprotected sex you have had unprotected sex more than once in the menstrual cycle you think that you might already be pregnant you are taking certain prescribed or complementary medicines you have certain health conditions.


In these circumstances you will need to see a doctor or nurse. All the advice and treatment you receive is confidential – wherever you receive it.


It is unlikely that you will be pregnant, but do a pregnancy test to make sure you are not pregnant if: you feel pregnant you have not had a normal period within three weeks of taking Levonelle, ellaOne or having the emergency IUD inserted you do not have a bleed when you have the seven-day break from using the combined pill, contraceptive patch or the contraceptive vaginal ring, or when you take the placebo tablets with EveryDay combined pills.


A pregnancy test will be accurate if the test is done three weeks after the last time you had unprotected sex.


Levonelle and ellaOne will not protect you from pregnancy if you have unprotected sex again. Seek advice – you can take Levonelle as many times as you need to in any menstrual cycle. ellaOne cannot be used more than once in the same menstrual cycle or in the same cycle as taking Levonelle.


Emergency contraception is not as effective as using other methods of contraception regularly – seek advice on using other methods.


You will be given one pill to take. It should be taken within three days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex.


Most women can use Levonelle. However, if you are taking certain prescribed medicines, or complementary medicines, you will need advice and the dose of Levonelle may need to be increased. The emergency IUD may be preferred.


Levonelle can be used from day 21 after giving birth. You can use it after a miscarriage or abortion.


There are no serious short- or long-term side-effects. Some women may feel sick, dizzy or tired, or may get headaches, breast tenderness or abdominal pain. A very small number will vomit. It may alter your next period.


Your period is likely to come on time or a few days early or late. Sometimes it can be a week late and sometimes even later.


You may have some irregular bleeding between taking Levonelle and your next period. This can range from spotting to being quite heavy.


You should see a doctor or nurse if: Your next period is more than seven days late, it is shorter or lighter than usual or you have any sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen. These could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Although this is not common, it is very serious. You are worried that you might have a sexually transmitted infection.


You may also become pregnant if you delay taking it, have further unprotected sex or vomit within two hours of taking it. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They may give you another dose or suggest an emergency IUD.


If you forgot your regular pills or did not use the patch or vaginal ring correctly, you should take your regular pill again, insert a new ring or apply a new patch within 12 hours of taking Levonelle.


Use additional contraception, such as condoms: for seven days with the patch, the ring and the combined pill (nine days for Qlaira) for two days with the progestogen-only pill.


Most women can use ellaOne. If you have liver disease, severe asthma or take certain prescribed medicines or complementary medicines, an emergency IUD may be a preferred option.


Some women may get the same side-effects as for Levonelle above. They may also get: painful periods mood swings muscle and back pain.


You should see a doctor or nurse if: Your next period is more than seven days late, it is shorter or lighter than usual or you have any sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen. These could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Although this is not common, it is very serious. You are worried that you might have a sexually transmitted infection.


You may also become pregnant if you vomit within three hours of taking it. Speak to your doctor or nurse. They may give you another dose or suggest an emergency IUD.


If you forgot your regular pill or did not use the patch or vaginal ring correctly, you should wait for five days after taking ellaOne before you take your pill again, insert a new ring or apply a new patch. Use additional contraception, such as condoms, during these five days.


After you restart your pill, patch or ring, you should continue to use additional contraception: with the patch, the ring and the combined pill for seven days (nine days for Qlaira) with the progestogen-only pill for two days.


An IUD is a small plastic and copper device that is fitted in your uterus up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex or within five days of the earliest time you could have released an egg. It takes about 15–20 minutes to fit. It can be uncomfortable – you can ask for a local anaesthetic.


Most women can use an emergency IUD but it is not normally recommended before 28 days after giving birth. If you need to, you can use Levonelle or ellaOne until this time.


You may be able to use the emergency IUD after a miscarriage or abortion. Speak to a doctor or nurse. You may be offered antibiotics when you have the IUD fitted.


Some women may get a period-type pain and light bleeding for a few days after the IUD is fitted. Pain relief can help.


There is a very small chance of getting an infection during the first 20 days after it is fitted. If you already have an infection you may be given antibiotics.


It is not common but the IUD can be pushed out or it can move. There is also a very small risk that it might go through your uterus.


You should see a doctor or nurse 3–4 weeks after the IUD is fitted. This is to: check you are not pregnant discuss your future contraceptive needs remove the IUD if this is what you want.


The emergency IUD can be removed during your next period. If removed at any other time you will need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for seven days before the emergency IUD is taken out.


If you cannot feel the IUD threads in the top of your vagina, or you can feel the IUD itself, you may not be protected against pregnancy. See your doctor or nurse straightaway and use additional contraception.


The IUD is very effective but if it fails there is a small increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The risk is less in women using an IUD than in women using no contraception at all. Seek advice as soon as possible.


If you want to go back to using your usual contraception, speak to a doctor or nurse about having the IUD removed or you can keep it as your regular method of contraception. 3–4 As a charity, FPA relies on support from people like you. If you found this page helpful please consider making a donation. Text 'FPAA11 £3' to 70070 to donate £3 or see other ways to donate. Thank you.


This website can only give you general information about contraception. The information is based on evidence-guided research from the World Health Organization and The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. All methods of contraception come with a Patient Information Leaflet which provides detailed information about the method.


Remember – contact your doctor, practice nurse or a sexual health clinic if you are worried or unsure about anything.


INFORMATION LAST UPDATED OCTOBER 2015 (PDF LAST UPDATED JANUARY 2016). NEXT PLANNED REVIEW 2016. The Information Standard


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