Emergency Contraception

If someone has had sex without using contraception or they think their method might have failed there are two emergency contraception methods they can use that can help prevent pregnancy.

Emergency Hormonal Contraception

Previously known as the morning after pill, it works best if you if take it within 24 hours of having sex, but can be taken up to 120 hours after.

You can get it free from any family planning clinic, doctors or some hospitals (Accident or Emergency Department).

Some pharmacists offer FREE emergency contraception following a short consultation. Most contraceptive services will also provide free emergency contraception.

Questions you may be asked…

  • When did you have sex?
  • Did you use any contraception?
  • When was your last period?
  • If your period is late is there a chance that you could already be pregnant?
  • Have you taken emergency contraception before, if so, when?
  • Does you, or anyone in your family have certain health problems?
  • Are you taking any other medication (tablets etc)?
  • Your name & postcode (this is not so that they can contact you but so they know where you’ve come from)
  • How old are you?

See our video on emergency contraception


If you are under 16 they will need to check that you understand what is involved in taking the medication and encourage you to talk to your parents or carer. You do not have to talk to your parents or carer.

As long as you can show that you understand what is involved you have a right to the contraception.

Use this Service Finder to find your nearest provider

Not all pharmacists are trained to provide this service. It is a good idea to ring ahead and check that there is someone there who can help you.

You can also buy emergency contraception from pharmacies but it is expensive: about £26 – although recently many have reduced this to nearer £15

Emergency hormonal contraception works by stopping an egg from being released from the ovaries and making the womb an unpleasant place for a fertilised egg to attach.


An IUD (a coil) – may be fitted if it is more than 72 hours (and no more than five days) after unprotected sex. This may not be suitable for everyone. Doctors and family planning clinics offer this service.

An IUD works by making the womb an unpleasant place for a fertilised egg to attach.

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