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Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can stop you getting pregnant after unprotected sex (sex without contraception or when contraception might have failed).

You need to use emergency contraception within 3 to 5 days of having unprotected sex.

The sooner you use emergency contraception, the more effective it usually is.

There are 2 types of emergency contraception:

  • an IUD (intrauterine device) also called a copper coil
  • the emergency contraceptive pill (also called the morning after pill)

The IUD is the most effective type of emergency contraception.


Emergency contraception is free from NHS sexual health clinics and GP surgeries.

Where can I get emergency contraception?

You can get the emergency pill or IUD free from:

  • most sexual health clinics, also called family planning or contraception clinics
  • most GP surgeries

You can also get the emergency pill for free from:

  • some NHS walk-in centres
  • pharmacies that offer NHS emergency contraception services
  • some young people’s services (call the national sexual health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for more information)

You can also buy the emergency contraceptive pill at most pharmacies. Many pharmacies also sell the emergency contraceptive pill online.


An IUD can be fitted within 5 days (120 hours) after sex.

It's a small plastic T-shape that a specially trained nurse or doctor can put into your womb.

You need to make an appointment to have an IUD fitted by a nurse or doctor. This is usually done at a sexual health clinic or GP surgery.

An IUD can be left in as your usual method of contraception. It lasts for 5 or 10 years, depending on the type.

Find out about the IUD, including side effects and who can use it.

Emergency contraceptive pill

There are 2 main types of emergency pill used in the UK:

  • levonorgestrel (brands include Levonelle) which you need to take within 3 days (72 hours) after sex
  • ulipristal acetate (brands include ellaOne) which you need to take within 5 days (120 hours) after sex

Find out about the emergency pill, including side effects and who can use it.

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2024
Next review due: 31 January 2027