Sometimes people are too embarrassed, too busy, or just don’t know the right questions. The questions on this page should cover a lot of aspects of what you need to know though.

Emergency Contraceptives

How long after having unprotected sex can I take the emergency pill?

The emergency pill must be taken within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is. It is most effective if it is taken within the first 12 hours after unprotected sex.

Is it safe to use the emergency pill more than once a month?

Repeated administration within a menstrual cycle is not advisable because of the possibility of disturbance of the cycle. The emergency 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.

Will the emergency pill cause me to have an abortion?

No, the pill contains either a combination of estrogen and progestin or progestin only, and works by delaying or inhibiting ovulation. It is not a method of abortion.

Can I use the emergency pill with any other forms of contraception, 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 or split condom.

Does emergency contraception disrupt an existing pregnancy?

No. ECPs do not work if a woman is already pregnant. When taken before a woman has ovulated, ECPs 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 5 days.

Does emergency contraception cause birth defects? Will the fetus be harmed if a woman accidentally takes ECPs while she is pregnant?

Good evidence shows that ECPs will not cause birth defects and will not otherwise harm the fetus if a woman is already pregnant when she takes ECPs or if ECPs fail to prevent pregnancy.

How long does emergency contraception protect a woman from pregnancy for?

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.

Should women use emergency contraception as a regular method of contraception?

No. Nearly all other contraceptive methods are more effective in preventing pregnancy. A woman who uses 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.