Emergency Contraception Pill: Everything You Need To Know

Emergency Contraception Pill: Everything You Need To Know

What is the Emergency Contraception Pill

Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy in situations where contraception wasn't used, was used incorrectly, or failed. Specifically, emergency contraception is suitable in scenarios where:

  • A condom broke or was used improperly.
  • Oral contraception doses were missed or delayed.
  • No contraception was used at all during intercourse/sex.

Emergency contraceptive pills, available over-the-counter at pharmacies without a prescription, are one form of this preventive measure. In Australia, two primary types of emergency contraception pills exist:

  • Levonorgestrel (offered under multiple brands): Effective for up to 3 days (72 hours) post unprotected sex
  • Ulipristal acetate (EllaOne): Effective up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex and generally more potent than levonorgestrel pills.

For those who routinely take a hormonal contraceptive pill, you may resume immediately after taking a Levonorgestrel based pill. However, after taking a Ulipristal acetate pill, it's recommended to wait 5 days before resuming your regular contraceptive.


How does it work?

Emergency contraceptive pills function by halting or postponing the release of an egg from a woman's ovaries. If ovulation has already taken place, these pills can prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus, ensuring that pregnancy doesn't occur.

Contrary to popular belief, they don't terminate an existing pregnancy where implantation has already happened. Thus, the morning-after pill doesn't induce an abortion, nor is it harmful if you're already pregnant.


Effectiveness & Usage

The morning-after pill has been demonstrated to be effective in preventing pregnancies. However, it's important to note that no form of the morning-after pill guarantees 100% effectiveness, and its success rate can vary based on several factors.

It is considered that:



  • Is 95% effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.
  • Decreases to 85% effective if taken between 25-48 hours.
  • Further drops to 58% effective when taken between 49-72 hours.


Ulipristal acetate:

  • Considered to have an effectiveness rate of 98%

Ovulation is prompted by rising levels of LH. Levonorgestrel tends to lose its effectiveness once LH levels start to increase. Ulipristal acetate continues to be effective slightly later in the ovulatory cycle. Nevertheless, for both pills, taking them promptly after unprotected sex maximises their efficacy.

Emergency contraceptives are generally considered safe with no severe side effects. However, they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Who can use it?

Most women can use the emergency contraceptive pill, even those who cannot use standard hormonal contraception. This includes girls under 16 years of age, although a prescription might be necessary and professional guidance is highly recommended.

Nonetheless, there are specific conditions and medications that may contraindicate its use. You should avoid the emergency contraceptive pill if:

  • You have allergies to any of its ingredients.
  • You're taking medications that could interact negatively with it, such as St John's Wort.
  • Medications that reduce stomach acidity, like omeprazole.
  • Certain antibiotics, specifically rifampicin and rifabutin.
  • You have recently experienced unexplained vaginal bleeding that has yet to beassessed by a doctor.

For those with severe asthma on oral steroids, the ulipristal acetate pill cannot be taken, whereas the levonorgestrel pill remains a safe choice.

If considering ulipristal acetate pills, exercise caution if you're on particular medications, especially HIV treatments. Conversely, Levonorgestrel pills can be used alongside HIV treatments, but an adjusted dosage, typically a double dose, might be necessary. It's crucial to consult your GP to determine the suitable dosage based on your medical background and body weight. Depending on these factors, your doctor might also suggest a specific type of emergency contraception.


Accessibility & Availability at Zenith Pharmacy

At Zenith Pharmacy, our top priority is to ensure that our customers receive the necessary care with the utmost confidentiality and discretion. The emergency contraception pill is readily available at our pharmacy. Furthermore, for your comfort and privacy, we have a dedicated consultation room where our trained pharmacists can discuss your needs, review your medical history, and provide tailored advice regarding emergency contraception. We are also happy to answer any questions about your current medications, long-term contraception options, or any general concerns about sexual health.




Is the morning after pill safe?

Yes, the morning after pill is generally considered safe. However, some individuals may experience short-term, mild side effects after taking it, which could include:

  • Nausea
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness

If you happen to vomit or diarrhoea within 2 to 3 hours of taking the pill, it's advisable to take another one.

Additionally, the morning after pill can alter your menstrual cycle. Your subsequent period may arrive earlier, on schedule, or be slightly delayed.

While the pill is safe, we still recommend a follow-up consultation with your GP. They can screen you for STIs (since the morning after pill doesn't offer protection against them), provide advice on long-term birth control options, and conduct a pregnancy test if desired.

If your period is more than 7 days late or lighter than usual, or if you've taken emergency contraception multiple times in one menstrual cycle, please consult your doctor.

If, after taking the pill, you experience prolonged bleeding or spotting lasting over a week or develop acute lower abdominal pain between three to five weeks, contact your GP urgently. Such symptoms could indicate a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus, typically in a fallopian tube.


Will It affect future fertility?

No.According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the morning after pill does not affect fertility and there is no delay in return to fertility. 


Is one pill enough?

The standard recommendation is one pill as the typical dose. However, based on medication history (such as HIV treatments) or weight, some women might need to take two levonorgestrel pills. It's essential to consult your GP for guidance on the appropriate dosage and the most suitable pill choice.


How often can one use emergency contraception? Are there any long-term side effects?

Currently, there's no evidence suggesting long-term side effects or dangers associated with frequent use of emergency contraception. Both levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate pills have not been linked to any long-term complications.

However, frequent use of emergency contraception is discouraged. This is not because of safety concerns but because it's a less effective method of birth control compared to other forms of contraception. Those who rely on emergency contraceptive pills regularly have an increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Additionally, these pills do not offer protection against STIs.

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