Life does not always go according to plan and it’s really important to remember that emergency contraception is easily available.

If you have had sex without using any contraception (unprotected sex), or if you think your contraception has failed, go and ask advice from a pharmacist, practice nurse, GP or Family Planning Clinic.

There are three types of emergency contraception; any type of intrauterine device and two types of emergency contraceptive pills. An intrauterine device can be fitted as a form of emergency contraception up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. One of the emergency contraceptive pills releases a hormone called ulipristal acetate, which is similar to progestogen. It should be taken as soon as possible but can be given up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. The other emergency contraceptive pill contains a hormone called levonorgestrel, again very similar to the hormone progestogen. The pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex but can be given up to 72 hours (3 days) after the event.

All types of emergency contraceptive work by stopping ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries), stopping the fertilisation of an egg or by stopping a fertilised egg from implanting in the lining of the womb. Medical research and legal judgement are quite clear that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy and does not cause abortion. Abortion can only take place after a fertilised egg has implanted in the womb.

For women with PH, all methods of emergency contraception can be used. If you are on Bosentan, an Endothelin Receptor Agonist, you can still use the emergency contraceptive pills but you will need to have a double dose as Bosentan can make them less effective.

Q. If I realise I need emergency contraception on a Friday evening, can I wait until my PH Centre is open on Monday to ask for advice?

All emergency contraception is more effective the sooner you use it after unprotected sex so don’t wait for your specialist PH Centre to open-get advice straight away. GPs, practice nurses, Out of Hours services and Family Planning clinics will all be able to offer you appropriate emergency contraception if needed.