Healthy living

Emergency contraception

The emergency contraceptive pill or an intra-uterine device (IUD) can be used if someone with a uterus has unprotected sex or if contraception fails. This can include not using a condom or other contraceptives, forgetting to take the pill, a condom slipping off, or sexual assault.

Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (also known as the morning after pill, or Plan B) are for emergencies and should not be used as a regular contraception.

They work by delaying ovulation or, if an egg has been fertilised, stopping it from implanting in the uterus. If you take an emergency contraceptive pill within 72 hours (3 days) after having sex, it is very effective. Some versions of emergency contraceptive pills can also be effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex. It’s best to check with your doctor of pharmacist for which pill is best for you. You should see your doctor again for a check up 3 weeks after taking an emergency contraceptive pill

You can get emergency contraceptive 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 or sexual health clinic 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.


  • Anyone can take the emergency contraceptive pill if they need to, even if they are unable to take contraceptive pills on a long-term basis.

Things to consider

  • Emergency contraceptive pills can cause nausea and vomiting, and vaginal bleeding.
  • It is important to have a check up 3 weeks after using emergency contraception. If it was not successful in preventing a pregnancy and unusual pain or bleeding occurs, it is important to see a doctor to make sure there is no ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube).

Where to get help

Last reviewed: 08-12-2023
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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