The ECP is a high dose contraceptive pill with a hormone called progestogen. The ECP works mainly by delaying ovulation, but there is a risk of pregnancy if you have unprotected sex later in your cycle. It doesn’t work once the egg has been released and fertilised. It doesn’t harm you or a developing embryo.
The ECP can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, but is most effective when taken in first 24 hours – it is less effective as time passes. The ECP has a success rate of 98% for those of average weight when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
The ECP may not be as effective for women weighing over 70 kg. You should consider using the IUD or taking double the dose (take 2 ECPs together). This is an unapproved dose, and the effectiveness has not been fully studied.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medication you are taking. Some other medicines such as antiepileptics and antibiotics affect the way the ECP works, so you may need extra doses or a copper IUD. If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the ECP you’ll need to take another dose.
How do I take the ECP?
The ECP is a tablet. If you weigh less than 70 kg, take 1 tablet as soon as you can within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sex. Your healthcare provider will explain how to take the tablet. Follow their instructions carefully to ensure the ECP works properly. Do the following when taking the ECP:
- Take it as soon as possible.
- It helps to take it with food as some women feel sick after taking the ECP.
- If you vomit within 3 hours, go back to your healthcare provider as you may need to take it again.
- If you are already using regular contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill ('the pill'), keep taking this at your regular time.
What happens next?
- Some women may notice bleeding or spotting after taking the ECP and you may have an early or later start to your next menstrual period.
- Even if you have a period, it's important to have a pregnancy test 3–4 weeks after taking the ECP to make sure you are not pregnant.
- There is no evidence that the ECP will affect the unborn baby if you do become pregnant.
The ECP does not give you any ongoing protection against pregnancy. It is important to use condoms or another form of contraception for ongoing protection against pregnancy. You can talk to your healthcare provider about this, as using ECP as a regular method of birth control is not recommended.
Where can I get the ECP?
The currently funded ECP is known as Postinor and this is available through: