Morning After Pill Myths
Reviewed by our clinical team
There are many myths surrounding the morning after pill and the emergency coil. We asked our doctors to step in and debunk some of the most common misconceptions that are preventing women from seeking out emergency contraception…
MYTH: The morning after pill is the only type of emergency contraception.
THE TRUTH: Though most people have only heard of the morning after pill, there are in fact two types of emergency contraception that can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy:
- the morning after pill – also known as the “emergency contraceptive pill”
- the emergency IUD, – also known as “the emergency coil”
The emergency coil is a small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus by a trained medical professional as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It prevents pregnancy by blocking the implantation of a fertilised egg.
The morning after pill is a tablet taken once after unprotected sex that works by preventing fertilisation. Both types are very effective in preventing pregnancy, provided they are used correctly.
Despite this, however, a surprising number of women are reluctant to use emergency contraception. In a survey of 2,000 British women aged 16 to 54 by the Family Planning Association, 35% admitted to having unprotected sex in the past two years when they weren’t trying for a baby. Of these women, only 17% said they had used emergency contraception afterwards.
MYTH: “The morning after pill is only effective for 24 hours after unprotected sex.”
THE TRUTH: The morning after pill can be effective for up to 3-5 days, depending on the type you use (although it is most effective when taken in the first 24 hours). The emergency coil is also effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 5 days.
Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of women asked thought that the emergency contraceptive pill was only effective ‘the morning after’ sex. Levonorgestrel (sometimes branded Levonelle), the most commonly used morning after pill, can prevent pregnancy for up to 3 days, while ellaOne can prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days. It's important to bear in mind, however, that both types of morning after pill will be more effective the sooner they are taken and that ellaOne is more effective than Levonorgestrel, when taken in the first three days.
MYTH: “Using emergency contraception is the same as getting an abortion.”
THE TRUTH: Emergency contraception prevents an egg from becoming fertilised after sex or prevents the implantation of a fertilised egg, while an abortion terminates a pregnancy that is already in progress.
Half the women surveyed either thought that emergency contraception brought on an abortion or weren’t sure. This is a very common misconception, despite the fact that emergency contraception essentially works in the same way as routine contraception – by blocking the processes that lead to fertilisation and implantation in the first place. If you have missed your window for emergency contraception, you should take a pregnancy test on the day that your next period is due.
MYTH: “Emergency contraception makes you infertile.”
THE TRUTH: Emergency contraception only has a temporary effect on your ability to conceive. There is no evidence to suggest that repeated use of emergency contraception will make you infertile.
A whopping 63% of the women in the survey mistakenly thought that repeated use of emergency contraception could make you infertile. While it is not recommended that you use the morning after pill frequently in place of using routine contraception, using it more than once will not lead to fertility problems. Emergency contraception simply prevents pregnancy temporarily (or in the case of emergency copper coil: an anti inflammatory reaction within the endometrium will prevent implantation and copper has a toxic effect on sperm and inhibits its penetration).
MYTH: “Emergency contraception is difficult or embarrassing to get hold of.”
THE TRUTH: Emergency contraception is available for free from lots of places, including GP surgeries and contraception clinics. The morning after pill can also be requested through our morning after pill clinic.
43% of women said they did not know where to get emergency contraception and one-third thought you need a prescription for it. Levonorgestrel, the most commonly used morning after pill, is available for free from contraception clinics, and from the majority of GUM clinics and GP surgeries. There are also certain pharmacies that supply the morning after pill for free. The emergency coil can also be fitted for free at sexual health centres and contraception clinics.
Order the morning after pill online…
Considering that 39% of British women said they felt embarrassed asking for emergency contraception, it’s not surprising that many would avoid using it. If you’ve had unprotected sex recently and don’t want to speak to a pharmacist or doctor face to face (or you would like to order it in advance to be prepared), you can order the morning after pill safely and confidentially through our online service.