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Emergency contraceptive pills (ECP)

Morning; after; pill; ECP; contraception; pregnancy; pill; youth; health; women; emergency; breast; feeding; breastfeeding; EC;;


Emergency contraceptive pills (sometimes wrongly known as the morning after pill) are hormone pills that can be used by a woman who has had unprotected sex, to prevent pregnancy. The earlier after unprotected sex they are used, the more effective they are. Emergency contraceptive pills are very effective if used within 24 hours after unprotected sex, and usually effective if used within 120 hours (5 days).

They are 2 tablets or 1 tablet which should be taken as soon as you get them. If you get 2 tablets they can be taken 12 hours apart but recent research has shown they are effective when taken together. The product information may still say take them 12 hours apart.

ECP are pills that provide a larger dose of the hormone progestogen than the oral contraceptive pill.

When are emergency contraceptive pills (ECP) used?

They can be used when a woman has had unprotected sex or when contraception has failed. This could include

  • not using contraception
  • a condom breaking or slipping off, 
  • when more than 2 consecutive  contraceptive pills are forgotten,
  • forced intercourse (rape/sexual assault).

Most women can take Emergency Contraceptive Pills, even women who cannot take oral contraceptive pills, or who get side effects from the Pill such as migraine. You can take the ECP if you are taking oral contraceptive pills - see our topic Contraception.

More information

For information about emergency contraception have a look at the SHine SA topic Emergency Contraception (EC)

SHine SA is Sexual Health Information Networking and Education South Australia

Sexually transmitted infections

The ECP does not protect anyone from sexually transmitted infections.

If you have had unprotected sex it would be a good idea to have a check for sexually transmitted infections. This is usually done 2 to 3 weeks after unprotected sex.


South Australia

  • SHine SA (Sexual Health Information Networking and Education South Australia)
    Sexual Healthline Mon-Fri 9am to 1pm 1300 883 793
    Country Callers 1800 188 171
  • The Pregnancy Advisory Centre
  • The Youth Health Service
    - Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
    - South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
    - North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
    -  West: 51 Bower St, Woodville
  • Any medical centre or public hospital
  • Your local doctor


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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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