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    Do you have to pay for emergency contraception?

    On this page
    1. What is emergency contraception? 
    2. Types of emergency contraception 
    3. Do you have to pay for emergency contraception?
    4. When should you take emergency contraception? 
    5. Where to get emergency contraception? 

    Reviewed by our clinical team

    Is emergency contraception free

    Emergency contraception provides a safe and effective way for a woman to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex.

    Although condoms and regular hormonal contraception like the pill or implant are more reliable, emergency contraceptives are up to 99% effective (depending on what you get and when you get it). The emergency pill should not be used as a regular method of contraception.

    Emergency contraception is free on the NHS, but this requires a visit to your GP, sexual health clinic or contraception clinic.

    What is emergency contraception? 

    There are two types of emergency contraception - a pill, known as the ‘morning after pill’, and a copper coil (IUD). They are taken/used between up to five days after unprotected sex (depending on the type you get). 

    Emergency contraception is available over the counter to women over 16, but nurses and pharmacists are free to offer it to anyone who could get pregnant and is of age. 

    Remember, you’re not alone. NHS sexual health services dispensed 78,000 emergency contraceptives in 2019, with a further 110,000 dispensed elsewhere in the community during the same year.

    Types of emergency contraception 

    There are two main types of emergency contraceptive pill: 
    Levonorgestrel (Levonelle), which contains a high dose of the hormone progesterone, also found in routine contraceptive pills
    ellaOne, which contains ulipristal acetate. Both pills work by delaying ovulation.

    The dose in the emergency contraceptive pill is far higher than the routine contraceptive pill, so you should not use it as a long-term contraceptive. Instead, speak to your doctor about the best routine contraceptive for you.

    You can also get the contraceptive coil as emergency contraception. A small, T-shaped copper and plastic device designed to sit inside the uterus (womb), the coil slowly releases small amounts of copper, which changes the environment inside the womb so sperm can't survive.

    To be effective, the emergency IUD should be fitted no more than five days after unprotected sex. It can be used as ongoing contraception for several years depending on which coil is used and your age. It’s more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

    Do you have to pay for emergency contraception?

    Is the morning after pill free?

    If you decide to get the morning after pill from a pharmacy, online or high street, you will have to pay for it. 

    Levonorgestrel, the most common type, is around £10 per pill. Women over 70kg or on certain medications sometimes have to take two pills, but your pharmacist will discuss this with you.

    ellaOne, the most effective type, is more expensive at around £30 per pill.

    A clinician will be able to advise on which type will be most effective for you.

    Do you have to pay for the emergency coil?

    The emergency IUD is only available from contraception clinics, sexual health centres, or GP surgeries and is available for free on the NHS.

    When should you take emergency contraception? 

    For it to be most effective, you should seek out emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

    The hormonal emergency contraceptive pill, Levonorgestrel (also known as its branded version Levonelle) is effective up to 72 hours (three days) after sex. The non-hormonal pill, ellaOne, is effective up to five days after. It’s crucial that you’re clear on when you had sex to get the most effective treatment.

    The emergency contraceptive IUD can be inserted up to 120 hours (five days) after sex, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated.

    Occasionally, you might want to get the morning-after pill in advance, for example, because you’re worried about your regular contraception failing.

    You might also need to take the emergency contraceptive pill even though you already use another routine contraceptive, such as if you:

    It is perfectly fine to take your normal contraception after taking the emergency pill, however this differs depending on the type of pill you took.

    • If you’ve taken Levonorgestrel/Levonelle, restart your usual pill/patch/ring immediately. Depending on your contraceptive, you’ll need to use condoms up to the next seven days. 
    • If you’ve taken ellaOne, you’ll need to stop your pill/patch/ring for five days before you can restart it. You need to use condoms during that time and for up to another seven days after that to make sure your contraception becomes effective again. 

    Where to get emergency contraception? 

    Some women are unsure where to get emergency contraception. The emergency pill is available from most high street pharmacies, however, this usually comes with a charge.

    The morning after pill is available for free from:

    • Contraception clinics
    • Some pharmacies (though not all)
    • Most GP surgeries
    • Most sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
    • Most walk-in centres and minor injuries units
    • Some hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments
    • Brook sexual health clinics

    You can also order emergency contraception online from our LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor service. Our service isn’t free, but sometimes might be a convenient solution for some people. 

    You just need to complete a short consultation online and a doctor will review it. If the emergency pill is suitable, you’ll be able to collect from your nearest LloydsPharmacy discreetly and with no fuss.

    The emergency coil is available for free from:

    • Contraception clinics
    • Brook sexual health centres
    • Most sexual health or GUM clinics
    • Most GP surgeries

    The hours after unprotected sex can be scary, but it’s important to know that emergency contraception is available, and for free on the NHS. 

    Although you shouldn’t rely on the emergency pill as your regular contraception, they are very effective and on average prevent up to 95% of pregnancies

    The morning-after pill is widely available, as is the emergency IUD, and if you are concerned about unplanned pregnancy following unprotected sex you should visit a sexual health clinic or pharmacy as soon as possible.

    Need emergency contraception?

    Go to morning after pill service


    References

    https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/sexual-and-reproductive-health-services/2019-20/emergency-contraception2
    https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/sexual-health/improving-your-sexual-health/contraception/emergency
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/emergency-contraception
    https://www.sexwise.org.uk/contraception/iud-intrauterine-device

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