A tablet with a hormone called levonorgestrel. This is a type of progestogen hormone, similar to the natural progesterone produced by the ovaries.

You’ll be given one pill to take. It should be taken within three days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex, but try and take it as soon as possible.

Ask your doctor or nurse for advice about taking it within four days (96 hours) of having unprotected sex as it may still be effective.

Most women can use pills with levonorgestrel. However, if you’re taking certain prescribed medicines, complementary medicines, weigh more than 70kg, or have a BMI (body mass index) higher than 26, you’ll need advice and the dose of levonorgestrel may need to be increased. The emergency IUD may be preferred.

Levonorgestrel can be used from day 21 after giving birth.

You can use it from day five after a miscarriage or abortion.

You can use it if you are breastfeeding.

There are no serious short or long-term side effects.

Some people may feel sick or may get headaches or a painful period.

A very small number will vomit.

It may alter your next period.

Most side effects go away within a few days.

Your period is likely to come on time or a few days early or late. Sometimes it can be a week late and sometimes even later.

If you don’t have a period within about a week of the expected time then do a pregnancy test.

You should see a doctor or nurse if:

  • Your next period is more than seven days late, is shorter or lighter than usual or you have any sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen. These could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Although this isn’t common, it’s very serious.
  • You’re worried you might have a sexually transmitted infection.

Some people get pregnant even though they took levonorgestrel correctly.

You may also become pregnant if you delay taking it, vomit within three hours of taking it or have further unprotected sex. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They may give you another dose or suggest an emergency IUD.

If you vomit later than three hours, levonorgestrel will have been absorbed.

If you forgot your regular pill or didn't use the patch or vaginal ring correctly, you should take your regular pill again, insert a new ring or apply a new patch within 12 hours of taking levonorgestrel.

Use additional contraception, such as condoms:

  • for seven days with the patch, the ring and the combined pill
  • for two days with the progestogen-only pill.

You can get emergency hormonal (EHC) for free, even if you’re under 16, from:

  • sexual health clinic
  • some GP surgeries
  • some young people’s clinics
  • most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
  • most pharmacies
  • some emergency departments (phone first to check)