What is 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 should not replace a regular method of contraceptive protection.

Emergency Contraception is available on the medical card directly from pharmacies without a prescription, or from a doctor or family planning clinic.

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


  • Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg 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.
  • Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg is more effective the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex.¹


  • 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 possible3


  • 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.4
  • This 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.1-3If you have had unprotected sex you should take the necessary precautions and get tested to ensure you have not contracted a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Emergency contraception causes a disturbance to the menstrual cycle so it is not recommended to use it more than once within a 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 Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg© 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 Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg and for women who have taken ellaOne, breastfeeding is not recommended for one week.3
  • ellaOne is not intended for use during pregnancy.

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


  1. https://www.hpra.ie/
  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 17/12/19

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