Some seasonal emergency contraceptive advice



Christmas/New Year can be tricky in terms of risk of unintended pregnancy - people are more likely to have unprotected sex and services are more likely to be closed. So here is a guide to help you navigate this.

First - do you need emergency contraception?

If you use condoms as your method of contraception and end up not using them or partially using them (this is more common) or they break then the answer is yes. For condoms to be fully effective as contraception there should be no penis-vagina contact without the condom.

If you are taking the combined pill and you miss 2 or more pills and have sex without a condom in the following 7 days then the answer is yes.

If you are taking the progesterone only pill and you miss one or more pills and have sex without a condom in the following 2 days then the answer is yes.

If your injection or implant or IUD/IUS has run out then the answer is yes - you could get them changed now.

Second - what is the window for getting emergency contraception. This depends on the type that you are going to use.

  • Levonorgestrel - can be taken within 72 hours of a pregnancy risk - but the sooner you take it the more effective it is. If you weigh over 70 Kgs you need to take 2 at once.

  • Ella One (ulipristal acetate) can be taken within 120 hours of a pregnancy risk and is slightly more effective than levonorgestrel - but you have to stop hormonal contraception for 5 days afterwards - so it can leave you with a gap in your contraception.

  • Copper IUD can be inserted within 5 days of pregnancy risk but also within 5 days of your earliest predicted date of ovulation - so sometimes this gives you more time to get it. You can work out your earliest predicted date of ovulation by taking your shortest cycle length and subtracting 14 - this gives you the earliest date that you are likely to ovulate in any given cycle.


Third - which type is most effective?
The IUD is by far the most effective. This is followed by Ella One which is followed by levonorgestrel. It is worth bearing in mind that after taking Ella One you have to stop hormonal contraception for the 5 days after taking it.

Fourth where can you get emergency contraception

Levonorgestrel and Ella One can be purchased at most pharmacies. In some pharmacies you can get it free - although this may only apply if you live in certain post codes or are a certain age. Unfortunately there is not much alternative to going to your local pharmacy and asking for emergency contraception. If they do not offer a free service then they are likely to know who does.

Men are legally allowed to purchase emergency contraception for their partners - some pharmacies are not aware of this but it is certainly worth discussing this with them if this is more convenient.

The IUD can be fitted as an emergency by your local sexual health clinic. They are likely to be closed on the bank holidays and weekends but open on the other days.

You can also order emergency contraception ‘in advance’ so that you have it in the cupboard from some online pharmacies - check the expiry date before you use it.

If you have a specific question on emergency contraception over the Christmas period you could always try posting this to the forum.

Happy holidays.