Emergency Contraception

Where to find emergency contraception:

Please see a list of pharmacies in Hull here. For the East Riding, please find a list here.

For a list of all Family Planning and GU clinics in Hull and the East Riding, please click here.

What is Emergency Contraception?

There are two types of emergency contraception

  • Emergency contraceptive pills (Levonelle and EllaOne)
  • IUD (intrauterine device)

Emergency contraception pills can be used to help prevent an unwanted pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. An emergency IUD possibly longer.

Emergency contraception can be used if a contraceptive method fails, for instance a condom splits or a pill is forgotten or taken late, or if no contraception is used (i.e. 'unprotected' sex).

Emergency contraception makes it much less likely that you will get pregnant, but emergency contraceptives are not as effective as any contraceptives that are used before or during sex (including the most effective ones that are injected, worn in the womb or implanted under the skin of the arm, otherwise known as LARCs: Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives). Unlike the emergency IUD, emergency contraception pills do not prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex in the rest of the menstrual cycle after the pill has been taken so it is important that ongoing effective contraception is used. Emergency contraception does not cause an abortion.

Also, emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, like HIV (only condoms do). Emergency contraception may not stop an ectopic pregnancy (this means the fertilised egg is not implanted in the womb but in the tubes that connect to it (called the fallopian tubes) although it will not cause it. If this happens, it will require emergency treatment.

There are two forms of emergency contraception:

Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Levonelle (Levonogestrel) - pill

When to use Levonelle:

This can be taken up to 3 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. It is taken as a single does of 1.5mg and appears to work by inhibiting or delaying ovulation. There are no long term or serious side effects and it is generally very safe for women to take. Side effects of nausea and vomiting are much less likely than with the older hormonal emergency contraception. Other side effects include changes in the next menstrual cycle such as delay of the next period of more than 3 days in about 30% of women, or coming on early. For most women, their period will come at the expected time.

How reliable is Levonelle?

The effectiveness of Levonelle declines with delay in treatment and also depends on where you are in your cycle. When taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex in the earlier part of the cycle, it is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy; when it's taken between 25-48 hours after unprotected sex it is 85% effective and when it's taken between 49-72 hours after unprotected sex it is 58% effective at preventing pregnancy. So it's important to get advice and supply of emergency contraception as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. Levonelle is licensed for 3 days but can be prescribed for up to 5 but there is a further decrease in effectiveness. It can also be given off license on days 4 and 5.

It is important to know the effectiveness of Levonelle is altered by where you are in the menstrual cycle. It is known to act by delaying or inhibiting ovulation (egg production) but this is less likely the nearer to ovulation that treatment is given and it is no more effective than dummy tablets once the maturing follicle has reached 15-17mm in size which is in about the 2-3 days running up to ovulation.

If at this stage of menstrual cycle, an alternative emergency method should be chosen.

Contraception can be started or continued if already being used on the day Levonelle is taken. Whoever issues the Levonelle will advise on this.

Where can i get Levonelle?

It is available FREE from:

  • Any family planning clinic
  • Your GP
  • Some pharmacies (some may charge)
  • Sexual health clinics
  • Some School Nurses

Please see the links at the top of the page for pharmacies/clinics which offer emergency contraception.

EllaOne (Ulipristal Acetate) - pill

When to use EllaOne:

There is a new emergency pill called EllaOne which can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

How reliable is EllaOne?

The effectiveness of EllaOne is sustained over 5 days and unlike Levonelle, does not decrease during this time. However, it is slightly less effective if taken at ovulation time.

After EllaOne is taken, periods can sometimes occur earlier or later than expected by a few days. In approximately 7% of women, periods occured more than 7 days earlier than expected. In 18.5% of women, a delay of more than 7 days occured, and in 4% the delay was greater than 20 days. Other side effects reported include headache, nausea and abdominal pain in about 10% of women. It is not recommended for use in women with uncontrolled severe asthma or on certain medication.

It cannot be taken more than once in a menstrual cycle and affects contraception afterwards so it is essential that condoms are used too, for example for up to 2 weeks if on the combined oral contraceptive. whoever issues the EllaOne will advise on this.

Where can I get EllaOne?

EllaOne is available to buy over the counter in pharmacies and can also be obtained without a prescription through some pharmacies within Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire commissioned to provide the Emergency contraception service. Additionally EllaOne can be prescribed by a GP or issued from a Family Planning or Sexual Health clinic or school nurse.

Intrauterine Device - IUD

When to use an IUD:

This can be fitted up to 5 days after the calculated date of ovulation or after unprotected sex, whichever is later, to prevent pregnancy.

It is also known as a coil and is a small 'T' shaped piece of plastic and copper that is inserted into the womb.

It works by reducing the survival of the ova (egg), as well as the number of sperm reaching the fallopian tube and their ability to fertilise an egg. If inserted after fertilisation, the IUD works by preventing the egg implanting in the womb.

It can be fitted as an emergency contraceptive up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or up to 5 days from the calculated date of ovulation (which may be more than 5 days from the unprotected sex) and has to be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse.

How reliable is an IUD?

The emergency IUD is over 99% effective at whatever stage you fit it and can continue to be used for your regular contraception. It's effectiveness is not altered by where you are in your cycle.

If you do not wish to use it as your regular method of contraception, it can be removed after your next period.

Where can I get an IUD?

An IUD can be fitted at:

  • Any Family Planning clinic
  • Some GP surgeries
  • Sexual Health clinics


Emergency contraception is less likely to be required if you use a contraceptive that works 24/7 like the Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC). For a list of all Family Planning and GU clinics in Hull and the East Riding, please click here.

For further information please visit not2late.

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