What type of emergency contraception to choose depends on when you last had unprotected sex:

Within the last 5 days (120 hours) – consider the non-hormonal coil or the ulipristal acetate pill. The levonorgestrel pill could also work if it’s less than 72 hours since your pregnancy risk, but this is slightly less effective than ulipristal acetate.

More than 5 days (120 hours) ago – you can still have a coil fitted if you’re within 5 days of your earliest predicted date of ovulation – see how to calculate this.

Both within the last 5 days and more than 5 days ago – even if it’s too late to take emergency contraception for the sex that you had more than 5 days ago, you can take it for the sex that you had more recently.

If you’re currently using any form of hormonal contraception, or you’re breastfeeding, then you cannot use the ulipristal acetate pill and should consider using the coil. If it’s less than 3 days (72 hours) since your pregnancy risk, you can take the levonorgestrel pill.

Questions to help you choose an emergency contraception

Which is the most effective method?

The non-hormonal coil is the most effective method of emergency contraception. The ulipristal acetate pill is the next most effective, and then the levonorgestrel pill.

Which method do you feel most comfortable taking?

Some people will be more comfortable just taking an oral pill, while others may prefer to have a coil fitted. The non-hormonal coil will provide long-lasting contraception so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a longer-term option.

Can you visit a healthcare professional who can fit a coil?

The coil should be fitted by a doctor or nurse practitioner with specialist training. You’ll need to be able to get an appointment within a few days of having unprotected sex. See below for who to contact.

Are you currently using hormonal contraception?

This includes the combined pill, the contraceptive patch, the vaginal ring and the progestogen-only pill.

The ulipristal acetate pill interacts with all hormonal types of hormonal contraception and makes them less effective. So, if you’ve used hormonal contraception in the last 7 days, you cannot take it.

If you’ve missed pills because you forgot to take them or have experienced severe diarrhoea or vomiting, you might need to take the levonorgestrel pill. Also if you’ve forgotten to replace a patch or vaginal ring on time, you might need emergency contraception.

Are you planning to start using hormonal contraception?

You should not start using hormonal contraception for at least 5 days after taking the ulipristal acetate pill. This is because it interacts with all types of hormonal contraception for 5 days after you’ve taken it. You’ll need to use another method of contraception, such as condoms, in the meantime.

Are you breastfeeding?

If you’re breastfeeding and you take the ulipristal acetate pill, you’ll need to stop breastfeeding for 7 days. During this time, you should express milk and dispose of it. If you’re breastfeeding and you use the levonorgestrel pill or the non-hormonal coil, you can keep breastfeeding as usual.

Do you take oral steroids for severe asthma?

If you have severe asthma and take oral steroids, you cannot take the ulipristal acetate pill. Instead, take the levonorgestrel pill or have a non-hormonal coil fitted.

Are you taking medications that interact with hormonal emergency contraception?

You may not be able to take an emergency contraceptive pill. Consider the non-hormonal coil instead.

Do you weigh more than 70 kg or more than 11 stone?

If you weigh over 70 kg (11 stone) you can still use any of the methods of emergency contraception. However, if you decide to take the levonorgestrel pill, it’s recommended that you take a double dose. This isn’t harmful.

Is it before, or less than 5 days after, your earliest predicted date of ovulation?

This can be complicated to work out. You can calculate your earliest predicted date of ovulation yourself, but if you’re not confident it may be a good idea to talk it through with a health professional.

Any time before, or less than 5 days after, your earliest predicted date of ovulation (for example between days 1 to 18), then you can have an emergency coil fitted.

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