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Emergency contraceptive services

There are a number of different emergency contraceptive options available to the public. The type of product selected depends on how long ago the unprotected sex was as well as when you had your last period. The most important thing to remember regarding emergency contraceptive, is the sooner it’s obtained after unprotected sex the more effective it will be.

The three day pill (Levonorgestrel – various brands available)

  • Time that can elapse after unprotect sex to be effective: 72 hours – 3 days
  • Effectiveness: As mentioned above the sooner emergency contraceptive is sought the more effective it will be. Levonorgestrel is 99% effective if taken within 12 hours of unprotected sex and it becomes less effective on day two and three. It will also be less effective if it’s taken in the same cycle as the five day pill (EllaOne).
  • Availability: It’s available from the majority of community pharmacies following a consultation with the pharmacist.
  • Cost: Free from your pharmacy if you are a medical card holder or €25 if a private patient.

Important points particular to levonorgestrel

  • If you are already on the pill, patch, vaginal ring or contraceptive injection and have taken levonorgestrel you should start your contraceptive method within 12 hours and continue it as normal. You will need to take additional precautions for a number of days depending on your type of contraceptive. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

The five day pill (Ulipristal acetate – EllaOne)

  • Time that can elapse after unprotect sex to be effective: 120 hours – 5 days
  • Effectiveness: 99.5% effective on the basis it is taken as soon as possible. The further you wait into the five day period the less effective it will become. It will be less effective if you are already on contraceptives or if you have taken other emergency contraception in the same cycle.
  • Availability: It’s available from the majority of community pharmacies following a consultation with the pharmacist.
  • Cost: Free from your pharmacy if you are a medical card holder or €35 if a private patient.

Important points particular to EllaOne

  • If you are on any of the contraceptives listed above and have taken EllaOne you will need to wait at least five days before initiating your regular form of contraception. Additional precautions will be required for these five days plus the other days it takes for your regular contraceptive to become effective. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

Important points relating to both oral emergency contraceptives

  • Your next period may be affected, ie, come early or late, heavier or lighter flow. If it hasn’t come 5 days after your expected date it may require a pregnancy test.
  • A more long term contraceptive needs to be considered to avoid the need for any further supplies of the emergency contraceptive.
  • Its advisable to get a sexual health check for any sexually transmitted diseases if you are unsure about your partners sexual history.

The Copper Intrauterine coil

  • Time that can elapse after unprotect sex to be effective: 120 hours – 5 days
  • Effectiveness: The most effective method at 99.9%. Its recommended that its inserted within five days of unprotected sex although it can be inserted any time up to a week before your period. This method is appropriate when the patient has already taken an emergency oral contraceptive in the same cycle.
  • Availability: It must be fitted by a trained medical professional or family planning clinic.
  • Cost: For the price of the coil and the fitting it may be within the region of €200.  

Important points particular to the copper coil

  • The coil can be used as an ongoing method of contraception regardless if it was fitted as an emergency after unprotected sex.
  • It does not interect with any medication, unlike the oral emergency contraceptives. In some scenarios the only option for a small number of patients is the copper coil as they are on certain medication which interacts with the oral contraceptives.

For more information , contact your local McDaid Pharmacist

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