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Emergency contraception

What is emergency contraception?

If you've had sex without contraception or your contraception has failed, you can still prevent an unwanted pregnancy if you act quickly.  Contraception may fail for the following reasons:

  • a condom splits or comes off during sex
  • you have vomiting or diarrhoea when using the contraceptive pill
  • certain medicines can make the pill less effective
How does it work?

There are two methods of emergency contraception:

Emergency contraceptive pill

The emergency hormonal contraceptive pill                  (sometimes known as the morning after pill) contains progestogen. 

How it works

Stops or delays ovulation.

The emergency pill

Levonelle may be taken up to three days (72 hours) after sex.

ellaOne may be taken up to five days (120 hours)after sex but this needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

The sooner it’s taken, the more effective it is ─ about 95 per cent effective if taken within 24 hours.

The emergency pill should not be relied on as a regular method of contraception.

The intra-uterine device (IUD)

The intra-uterine device (IUD) is inserted into the uterus (womb).

How it works

Prevents fertilisation or stops a fertilised egg implanting in the womb.


Can be used up to five days after unprotected sex, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated (eg day 19 of a regular 28 day cycle).  Can also be used if more than one episode of unprotected sex has occurred in that cycle.

Almost 100 per cent success rate.

Needs to be left in place until after the next period, or can be kept as the permanent method of contraception.


Visit the Family Planning Association (FPA) website for more detailed information on emergency contraception

Where can I get emergency contraception?
  • Boots Pharmacy (in Cripps health centre, or the Victoria or Broadmarsh centre branches) offer FREE emergency contraception (Levonelle pill only) to under 25s, without the need for an appointment
  • The University of Nottingham Health Service offer the full range of emergency contraception methods for all registered patients, FREE of charge.  Call 0115 846 8888 and ask for a same day appointment
  • The NHS Walk in Centre, located near the London Road Island site, offers FREE emergency contraception (Levonelle pill only) 7am to 9pm every day of the year
  • Emergency contraceptive pills (Levonelle) can be bought at pharmacies for approximately £27 (a trained pharamacist must be on duty)