Everything you need to know about emergency contraception
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Fresher’s week at university can be one of the most exciting times of your life. There’s endless nights out, lots of booze and new friends. But it’s important to know what to do if you find yourself in a situation with someone that may require you to take emergency contraception. Below is everything you need to know if you find yourself in this situation, courtesy of sexual health charity FPA. Remember there is no need to be embarrassed Remember that asking for emergency contraception is a responsible choice, and should not make you feel embarrassed. It can be uncomfortable talking to someone about a contraception mishap, but pharmacists, doctors and nurses are aware that is it a sensitive topic. The most important thing is that you handle the situation quickly and responsibly. Know your options Although many think that a pill is their only choice, there are actually three choices of emergency contraception:
- An emergency contraceptive pill containing levonorgestrel – there are different brands but they all work in the same way - can be taken up to three days (72 hours) after sex
- An emergency contraceptive pill containing ulipristal acetate – ellaOne is the only brand in the UK – can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after sex - although emergency contraceptive pills should be taken as soon as possible after sex for the best chance of working successfully.
- An emergency intrauterine device (IUD) – can be fitted up to five days after sex, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have released an egg.
- Stop the sperm reaching an egg – the copper is unfriendly to sperm. It does this by preventing sperm from surviving in the cervix, uterus or fallopian tube.
- Effects the endometrium so that any fertilised egg is prevented from implanting in the uterus.
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- Any general practice that provides contraceptive services.
- A contraception clinic.
- Any young person’s service or Brook clinic.
- Any sexual health clinic.
- Some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics.
- Most NHS walk-in centres (in England only)
- Most pharmacies (there may be age restrictions)
- Most NHS minor injuries units
- Some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check).
- Most pharmacies if you are 16 years old or over
- Some fee-paying clinics
- It has been more than 72 hours since you had unprotected sex
- You have had unprotected sex more than once in the menstrual cycle
- You are taking certain prescribed or complementary medicines
- You have certain health conditions
- Most fee-paying clinics
- Most pharmacies
- There are no serious short or long-term side-effects, although some women may feel sick, dizzy or tired, or may get headaches, breast tenderness or abdominal pain
- A very small number will vomit
- It may alter your period
- Painful periods
- Mood swings
- Muscle and back pain
- Some women may get a period-type pain and light bleeding for a few days after an IUD is fitted
- There is a very small chance of getting an infection during the first 20 days after it is fitted. If you already have an infection, you may be given antibiotics
- It is not common but the IUD can be pushed out or it can move
- There is also a very small risk that it might go through your uterus
- You have not had a normal period within three weeks of taking emergency contraception containing levonorgestrel, ellaOne or having the emergency IUD inserted
- You do not have a bleed when you have the seven-day break from using the combined pill, contraceptive patch or the contraceptive vaginal ring, or when you take the placebo tablets with EveryDay combined pills
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