FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long after having unprotected sex can I take the emergency contraceptive pill to avoid pregnancy?
Emergency contraception (morning after pill) is most effective when taken within 12-24 hours after unprotected sex. Efficacy changes over time: while it’s 95% effective within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, that number drops to 58% when the pill is taken within 49-72 hours. For the best chance for it to work, you should take the emergency pill as soon as possible.
Can I use the emergency pill with any other forms of contraception to prevent pregnancy, e.g. if I have forgotten to take my contraceptive pill?
Yes, you can use the emergency pill if something has gone wrong with your usual form of contraception, for example a forgotten pill (only if the intake is more than 48 hours ago) or split condom.
Women who take ECPs should understand that they could become pregnant the next time they have sex unless they begin to use another method of contraception at once. Because ECPs delay ovulation in some women, she may be most fertile soon after taking ECPs. If she wants ongoing protection from pregnancy, she must start using another contraceptive method at once.
Repeated administration within a menstrual cycle is not advisable because of the possibility of disturbance of the cycle and a very high hormone dose. The emergency pill (morning after pill) should not be relied on as a regular form of contraception, and it is not as effective as other forms of hormonal contraception specifically made for regular use - it is only intended as a back-up.
No. Emergency contraceptives (morning after pill) do not work if a woman is already pregnant. When taken before a woman has ovulated, emergency pills prevent the release of an egg from the ovary or delay its release by 5 to 7 days. By then, any sperm in the woman's reproductive tract will have died, since sperm can survive there for only about 6 days.
Should women use emergency contraceptive pill as a regular method of contraception for birth control?
No. Nearly all other contraceptive methods are more effective in preventing pregnancy. A woman who uses emergency contraceptives (ECPs) regularly for contraception is more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than a woman who uses another contraceptive regularly. Still, women using other methods of contraception should know about ECPs and how to obtain them if needed—for example, if a condom breaks or a woman misses 3 or more combined oral contraceptive pills.
Emergency contraception (the morning after pill) mainly prevents pregnancy by stopping or delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg. If you’ve ovulated before taking the morning after pill, it won’t stop an egg meeting a sperm to create a pregnancy. It’s not a reliable everyday protection.
The efficacy of emergency contraception (the morning after pill) changes over time: while it’s 95% effective within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, that number drops to 58% when the pill is taken within 49-72 hours.
Where to get emergency contraception (the morning after pill) depends on the country you live in. Some sell it over the counter without a prescription, others demand a doctor’s visit first. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacy to find out.