Following unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, emergency contraception is an option for women to avoid unplanned pregnancy.
In Australia, there are 2 types of emergency contraception available:
- The copper intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective emergency contraceptive. It can be inserted up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex and provides long lasting and effective long-term protection.
- Emergency contraceptive pills (also known as the morning after pill or ECP) may stop a pregnancy before it starts by preventing or delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries.
There are 2 kinds of ‘morning after pill’ available in Australia and both must be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
- One can be used up to 72 hours (3 days) afterwards. It is available over-the-counter without a prescription at a pharmacy.
- The other is a new type of morning after pill that can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) afterwards. It can also be bought without a prescription at a pharmacy. Australia currently has highly limited availability of this option, so it may be difficult to obtain.
It’s important to remember that emergency contraceptive pills may only work up to 72 and 120 hours after engaging in unprotected sex, depending on which one you take, with the effectiveness decreasing after the first 24 hours.
Please speak to your doctor or pharmacist for more information or you can ask about advance supply at your next MSI Australia appointment – so that you’re always prepared.
Morning after pill cost
Both types of morning after pill are available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy without a prescription and cost between $15 and $45, depending on the type and brand.
Australia currently has highly limited availability of the 120 hour emergency contraception option, so it may be difficult to obtain.
Morning after pill FAQs
How does the morning after pill work?
Emergency contraception pills (‘the morning after pill’) may stop a pregnancy before it starts by preventing or delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries. They do not prevent fertilisation, inhibit implantation or end an established pregnancy. Emergency contraception pills are not abortion pills. They do not provide any on-going contraception and offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How effective is the morning after pill?
Emergency contraception does not prevent all pregnancies. Calculating how effective the morning after pill is at preventing pregnancy is complicated and depends on when intercourse took place and at what stage of your menstrual cycle you are.
There are also differences in the effectiveness of the two types of morning after pill. Your doctor or pharmacist can discuss your options with you.
Are there side effects from the morning after pill?
Mild short-term side effects of the morning after pill can include: headache, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness and altered bleeding pattern. If you vomit within 2-3 hours of taking the morning after pill you will need to take an additional tablet. If the morning after pill is successful in preventing pregnancy, most women will have a normal period at the normal time, though it may come early or a little late.
How often can I use the morning after pill?
Although there is no limit to the number of times you can take the morning after pill, you should only use it in emergencies and not as a regular method of contraception.
It does not prevent pregnancy as effectively as other contraceptive methods.
If used more than once in a menstrual cycle it is more likely to upset your menstrual cycle.
If you find yourself regularly requiring the morning after pill it is recommended you visit your local GP, sexual health clinic or MSI Australia clinic to discuss your contraceptive options.
Where can I get the morning after pill?
From your local or online pharmacy, though in either case you will be asked a few questions to determine what additional information the pharmacist should give you when dispensing the morning after pill. This should be done discreetly, either verbally or with a written questionnaire.
Pharmacists can refuse supply on religious grounds, but must refer you to another supplier if that is the case. Pharmacists who decline supply on religious grounds sometimes do so in the belief this contraception is an abortion pill, which is incorrect.
Ask your doctor about getting an advanced supply of the emergency contraceptive pill at your next Marie Stopes appointment, so that you’re always prepared.
If you have any other questions, please get in touch.