Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to avoid unintended pregnancy if you have had unprotected sexual intercourse or if your usual contraceptive method has failed. Emergency contraception is an occasional use method and should not replace a regular method of contraceptive protection.

There are two types of emergency hormonal oral contraception (morning after pill) available.

  • Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg, also known as Prevenelle® or Norlevo® is used to prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.¹-² It prevents ovulation and fertilisation if intercourse has taken place in the preovulatory phase, when the likelihood of fertilisation is the highest.¹-² The tablet must be taken as soon as possible, preferably within 12 hours, and no longer than 72 hours after unprotected sex. Prevenelle™ is more effective the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex.¹ For more information on Prevenelle™ please click here.
  • ellaOne® is used to prevent pregnancy if taken within 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.3 The tablet contains ulipristal acetate and works by inhibiting or delaying ovulation by suppressing the luteinizing hormone surge.³ ellaOne is effective at preventing pregnancy for 5 days after unprotected sex however the tablet should be taken as soon as possible. 3
  • Repeated use of emergency contraception within a menstrual cycle is not recommended because emergency contraception causes a disturbance to the menstrual cycle.¹-² Emergency contraception does not protect you from pregnancy the next time you have sex.1-3
  • Women continuing to use a hormonal method of contraception are advised to take extra precautions for 7 days following use of Prevenelle™ or Norlevo and for the remainder of their menstrual cycle following use of ellaOne.¹-³ as ellaOne has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of oral contraception.3
  • Breastfeeding women are advised to avoid breastfeeding for 8 hours following intake of Prevenelle or Norlevo.¹-² ellaOne is not intended for use during pregnancy, for women who have taken ellaOne, breastfeeding is not recommended for one week.3

An alternative method of emergency contraception is the IUD Copper Coil which can be inserted by specially trained GPs or Family Planning Clinics.4 It is a copper-bearing intrauterine device that is effective immediately after insertion and works primarily by inhibiting fertilisation.4This can be done up to five days after unprotected sex and can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years as a regular method of contraception.5

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.1-3 If you have had unprotected sex you should take the necessary precautions and get tested to ensure you have not contracted a sexually transmitted infection.

Talk to your local pharmacist, GP or Family Planning Clinic today for further advice and information on emergency contraception.


  1. Prevenelle SPC
  2. Norlevo SPC
  3. ellaOne SPC
  4. Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare Clinical Guidance Emergency Contraception Clinical Effectiveness Unit August 2011 (Updated January 2012)
  5. http://www.thinkcontraception.ie/Emergency-Contraception/Your-Choices.231.1.aspx Last accessed 10/08/16

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