Healthy living

Emergency contraception

The ‘morning after’ pill or an intra-uterine device (IUD) can be used if a woman has unprotected sex or if contraception fails. This can include forgetting to take the pill, a condom slipping off, or rape.

Morning after pill

The morning after pill is for emergencies and should not be used as a regular contraception.

It works by delaying ovulation or, if an egg has been fertilised, stopping it from implanting in the uterus. If you take the morning after pill within 72 hours (3 days) after having sex, it is very effective. Tablets containing high doses of hormones are taken 12 hours apart. You should see your doctor again for a check up 3 weeks after taking the morning after pill.

You can get the morning after pills from your doctor, health service or over the counter from a pharmacy.

Intra-uterine device

An intra-uterine device (IUD) works by stopping the sperm reaching the egg, and preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus.

It can be used for emergency contraception up to 5 days after having sex, and is also very effective. Please see a doctor for more information.

The morning after pill and the IUD do not protect against STIs or HIV. You should also ask your doctor for an STI test unless you are completely certain your sexual partner does not have an STI or HIV.


  • Any woman can take the morning after pill, even if she is unable to take contraceptive pills on a long-term basis.

Things to consider

  • The morning after pill can cause nausea and vomiting, and slight bleeding.
  • In very rare cases, it can lead to an ectopic pregnancy, which is one reason why you need to have a check up after 3 weeks.

Where to get help

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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