Emergency Contraception

Post-Coital Contraceptive  

What is it?

Emergency contraception is intended for occasional use, to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. It does not replace effective regular contraception.

The emergency contraceptive pill contains just one hormone: progesterone. It works by either stopping the egg from being released from the ovaries, or preventing sperm from fertilising the egg. It may also stop a fertilised egg from attaching itself to the lining of the womb. This means it will prevent a pregnancy. It will not work if you are already pregnant.

There are two types of oral emergency contraception.  Both medications should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse to increase its efficiency and are more effective if taken within 24 hours.

Emergency Contraception


Does it work?

Progestogen only contraceptive pills are approximately 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The pills are less likely to work if:

  • You have unprotected sex after you take them.
  • You vomit within 3 hours of taking the pills.
  • You have severe diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking the pills.

What about side effects?

The progestogen only emergency contraceptive pill is generally well tolerated. Possible side effects include nausea (which is less likely if it is taken after a light meal), breast tenderness or headaches. The next menstrual period may come a little earlier or later than expected, however, if you do not have a period within 3 weeks you must seek medical advice.

If the progestogen only emergency contraceptive pill fails there is a possible increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy within the tubes leading from the ovary to the womb). If you experience any pain or unexpected bleeding after taking the emergency contraception you need to seek immediate advice.


How do I get emergency hormonal contraception?

There are several options open to you:

  • THE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTRE – Consultation with a doctor or nurse at the UMC- no appointment is necessary – simply ring on 01227 469333 and we can arrange a telephone consultation.  We will discuss whether emergency contraception is suitable for you and can issue you the pills at no charge. The consultation, as with all other consultations with your doctor or nurse, is completely confidential.
  • UNIVERSITY NURSING SERVICE: 9 - 5 Mon-Fri Term Time Only.  If you are a student at the University of Kent – you can also obtain emergency contraception from the University Nursing Service (between Santander & Campus Security on Giles Lane), again via telephone consultation with a nurse, emergency contraception can be issued free of charge.
  • PHARMACY:  If you are not a student or would like to obtain emergency contraception elsewhere – you can access emergency hormonal contraception via a pharmacy. Several local pharmacies are authorised to provide Levonelle 2 emergency hormonal contraception free of charge to women under 20 years of age as part of the Kent Teenage Pregnancy strategy.

You will be asked your current weight so we can arrange the correct dose of medication, please have this information available.  

If  the University Medical Centre & Pharmacy are closed you can call the out of hours emergency line on 111


IUD (the coil) as Post-Coital Contraception

An IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or up to 5 days after the earliest time you could have released an egg (Eg Day 19 of a 28 day cycle). It stops an egg being fertilised or implanting in the womb. It is almost 100% effective and can then be used as ongoing contraception if you like.

An IUD is suitable IF:

  • You are too late to take emergency pills 
  • Do not want or cannot take progestogen
  • Want the most effective method of emergency contraception
  • Want to use the IUD as continuing contraception.

You need to see a doctor to have this fitted. If you have been at risk of sexually transmitted infections then you may need to be screened for these when the IUD is fitted, and antibiotics may be given to prevent the risk of pelvic infection. If you don’t want to use the IUD as your continuing method of contraception, it can be removed as soon as you know you are not pregnant (usually during your next period).

If you need emergency contraception it may be worthwhile reviewing your normal method of birth control, as other methods are more effective.