How to choose the right emergency contraceptive for you

So, your regular contraception has failed – or was forgotten altogether – and you’ve had unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is there to help prevent pregnancy and we’re here to reassure you. Remember that emergengy contraception is for occasional use only and should not be used to as a regular contraceptive method. It doesn’t protect against HIV or STI’s – only condoms can protect you from these diseases. There are different emergency contraception options available, so we’ve got all the information to help you feel confident in your choice.

This article should help you with the facts about different emergency contraceptives, if you have further questions that aren’t answered here you should discuss your options with a pharmacist, GP or at a sexual health clinic.

The oral emergency contraceptive, commonly known as the ‘morning after pill’, works by delaying ovulation to prevent fertilisation.

How does fertilisation work?

Approximately once a month, an egg will be released from the ovaries and start making its way through the fallopian tube. If it makes contact with a sperm within this time, the egg may fuse with the sperm to form an embryo which can grow into a baby.

The morning after pill delays the egg leaving the ovaries so it won’t come in contact with any rogue sperm and will therefore not be fertilised and become an embryo. Emergency contraception cannot interrupt a pregnancy if it has already begun.

Is there more than one morning after pill?

There are two types of emergency oral contraception available in Australia. One contains Ulipristal Acetate (known as EllaOne® in Australia) and can be effective within five days (120 hours) of having unprotected sex.

The other contains levonorgestrel, which can be effective within three days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex. Both emergency contraceptives are more effective the sooner you take them, and most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

EllaOne® is 2.5 times more effective than levonorgestrel when taken within the first 24 hours* (for verification, see here). To find out if EllaOne® is suitable for you, take a look at the EllaOne® suitability checklist.

The morning after pill is available to buy, without prescription, from pharmacies and can also be provided at sexual health clinics and from your GP.

What is the Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)?

The Copper Intrauterine Device, also known as the copper coil or the copper IUD, is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC)
Inserting the coil within five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex can help prevent unplanned pregnancy. Your GP or sexual health clinic should be able to arrange a fitting of the copper coil for you. While the copper IUD is a reliable long-term contraceptive, it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and so you should still use condoms with a new partner.