Sometimes called the morning after
or after sex
pillEmergency contraception (EC) may be used to reduce the chance of pregnancy when
intercourse has occurred without contraception, when you suspect contraception has
failed, or forced intercourse or sexual assault has occurred.
What is EC?
EC consists of a single dose of an oral contraceptive pill. The pill contains a hormone called levonorgestrel
Taken early enough after intercourse EC can reduce the chance that pregnancy will occur.It is not 100% effective and some women may become pregnant even after taking EC
.Usual dose is:
one 1,500 mcg tablet as soon as possible, before 72 hours after intercourse (unless
otherwise instructed by your pharmacist, GP or family planning clinic). Note: two 750 mcg tablets as a
single dose may also be used.
Who can take it?Most women can take the EC pill, even those who cannot take the contraceptive pill or those who get a migraine with the oral contraceptive pill. Your pharmacist or doctor can help you determine whether EC is safe and suitable for you.
How it worksThe EC pill can reduce the chance of pregnancy occurring in two ways:• Taken before ovulation (when the monthly egg is released) it may delay ovulation.
• Taken after ovulation it can interfere with the transport of eggs and sperm in the woman’s body.
Possible side effects
• Nausea, stomach upset
Although not as common compared with previous methods, some women may feel sick but the nausea does not usually last longer than 12 hours. If you vomit, for whatever reason, you may need to return to your pharmacist, doctor or clinic to get an extra pill.
• Breast tenderness and headaches
usually disappear within 48 hours and do not require treatment.
• Light bleeding
a few days after taking the pill is not
a normal period.
• Ectopic pregnancy
(pregnancy in a fallopian tube) is a rare complication following the use of the
EC pill. For this reason if you get unusual pain in the low abdomen in the next month you need to be examined straight away by your doctor, or at a family planning clinic, a women’s hospital or at the nearest hospital emergency department.
When can you expect your next period?It could be early, late or on time. Most women have a period within 3 weeks after taking the pill.
Can the EC pill fail?The EC pill is not 100% effective – pregnancy may still occur.
The sooner you take it after
unprotected sex the more effective it is. If taken in the first 24 hours the success rate is 95%.
However, the risk of failure doubles for every 12 hours delay.
The EC is most likely to fail if you take it later than 72 hoursOR
if you have ALREADY had unprotected sex since your last periodOR
if you vomit within two hours after taking the pillOR
if you have unprotected sex after taking the pill.
If your period is over one week late or lighter than usual, or you suspect that you may be pregnant,
contact your GP or local Family Planning Clinic. If you DO become pregnant despite taking the EC pill,
there is no medical evidence
that the foetus will be harmed.
Check-upIf you have not had a normal period within 3 weeks after taking the EC pill, see your doctor or clinic for a pregnancy test.
Ongoing ContraceptionIf you have no regular method of contraception, see your GP or family planning clinic to discuss a method that will be acceptable to you. If you choose to use the oral contraceptive pill, the first course can be started 24 hours after the EC pill. It is NOT a good practice to use the EC pill as a regular method of contraception.
Don’t forget that unprotected sex may put you at risk of sexually-transmitted infections. Your GP or the family planning clinic can arrange tests for you.
Sexual assault referral centre
contact details/hours of operation:
Local family planning clinic
contact details/hours of operation:
The contribution by Family Planning Western Australia through the Pharmaceutical Council of Western Australia is gratefully acknowledged. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, March 2010. This information leaflet may only be reproduced with permission of the Society.
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