Your Guide to Emergency Contraception

Your Emergency Contraception Choices

There are different emergency contraception choices for different situations, depending on when you had your last period and how long it has been since you had unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is more effective the sooner you take it after having unprotected sex.

Ask a pharmacist for a private consultation or talk to a GP or Family Planning Clinic about the best option for you. You can also use this time to discuss regular contraception. 

The following table will give you an outline of the choices available.

  3 Day Pill
(Levonelle or Norlevo)
5 Day Pill
(EllaOne)
The Copper Coil
(Post Coital IUD)
Time limit for use after unprotected sex: 72 hours
(3 days)
120 hours
(5 days)
120 hours
(5 days)
Effectiveness: Is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 12 hours after unprotected intercourse. It is less effective on day 2 and day 3. Is 99.5% effective but  should be taken as soon as possible. Is 99.9%  effective but get advice as soon as possible.
Available: Norlevo is available directly from pharmacists. Levonelle and Norlevo are available on prescription from GPs (including out of hours co–ops) or Family Planning Clinics.

EllaOne is available directly from pharmacists. Medical card holders require a prescription from a GP (including out of hours co–ops) or Family Planning Clinic.

Can be inserted by specially trained GPs or Family Planning Clinics.
Works by: Delaying ovulation Delaying ovulation Preventing sperm from joining an egg.
Preventing the fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus
Future protection:

After using emergency contraception, it’s important to talk to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the following:

• what to do if you are already using regular contraception

• when you can expect your next period

• what to do if your period doesn’t come

• a regular contraceptive option suitable for you

After using emergency contraception, it’s important to talk to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the following:

• what to do if you are already using regular contraception

• when you can expect your next period

• what to do if your period doesn’t come

• a regular contraceptive option suitable for you

Can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years as a regular method of contraception. Can be removed if required at your next period.
Cost: The cost of contraception varies depending on what form is most suitable to you, what providers are available to you and whether or not you have a medical card. Talk to a pharmacist, GP or Family Planning Clinic for more information on costs.

An EU-wide review was carried out to assess whether emergency contraceptives are less effective in overweight or obese women. It concluded that emergency contraceptives can continue to be taken, regardless of the woman’s bodyweight. However, in order to maximise the likelihood that they will work, it is important that they are taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, 2014).

More Information

Download the Emergency Contraception leaflet