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NB Adapted from NHS Choices plus info from Dept of Integrated Sexual Health from Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
A woman can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex, or if a method of contraception has failed.
There are two methods of emergency contraception:
Both of these methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy if they are used soon after unprotected sex. The most effective way of minimising your chance of becoming pregnant in this situation is to have an “IUD” or intra-uterine device fitted.
Copper intrauterine device (IUD)
The copper intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, plastic and copper device that can be fitted into your womb by a doctor or nurse within five days of having unprotected sex or sometimes even longer depending on the length of your normal menstrual cycle.
The IUD stops sperm from reaching an egg and fertilising it. It is the most effective method of emergency contraception and prevents up to 99% of pregnancies.
Most women can use the IUD for emergency contraception. It is particularly suitable if:
See the A-Z topic on the intrauterine device (IUD) for further information.
Emergency contraceptive pill
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill:
The effectiveness of the emergency contraceptive pill decreases over time. If it is taken within 24 hours of having unprotected sex, it prevents 95% of pregnancies.
Most women can use the emergency contraceptive pill, including women who are breastfeeding and those who cannot usually use hormonal contraception (such as the combined pill or contraceptive patch).
The emergency contraceptive pill should not be used as a regular method of contraception.
For more information, see the A-Z topic on the emergency contraceptive pill.
How likely am I to become pregnant?
If 1000 women have sex without a condom and are not using contraception:
Had unprotected sex?
The IUD can be fitted at:
Acting quickly and using emergency contraception after unprotected sex will usually prevent a pregnancy. The emergency contraceptive pill is available free from:
The emergency contraceptive pill can also be bought from pharmacies and some private clinics. It costs around £25.
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