Emergency contraception | Western Cape Government

Emergency contraception

If you've had unprotected sex and fear that it may lead to an unwanted pregnancy, you can consider taking an emergency contraceptive. 

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception can be used after you've had unprotected sex or fear that your contraceptive might have failed. You can take it orally in tablet form.

When can emergency contraception be taken?
Pharmacist giving medication

Pharmacist giving medication

Preferably emergency contraception should be taken within 1 to 2 days after having unprotected sex, but there are treatments which can work if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.  

Remember that the sooner emergency contraception is taken, the better.

How does emergency contraception work?
Pregnancy doesn’t happen immediately after sex. It can take up to 6 days for the sperm and egg to meet. Emergency contraception delays the release of an egg from your ovary and when there is no egg for the sperm to fertilise you can’t get pregnant.

Is emergency contraception safe?

Yes, women have been using emergency contraception for many years. There have been no reports of serious side effects when using emergency contraception.

What are the side effects?

It’s possible that you may experience some of the following side effects after using emergency contraceptives.

  • Possible changes in your period. It may be earlier or later as well as heavier or lighter than usual.
  • Possible breast tenderness, dizziness or headaches.
  • Possible nausea or vomiting. Note that if you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pill, it won’t be effective and you’ll need to take another one.

Where do I get emergency contraceptives?

You can access contraceptives and counselling at our primary healthcare clinics. Emergency contraceptive as also readily available at most pharmacies and after-hour clinics. You can also contact private institutions such as private health clinics. 

Marie Stopes:
Tel: 021 422 4660
Call centre: 0800 11 77 85
Email: info@mariestopes.org.za

If you need information on other forms of contraception and family planning please visit our Family Planning (Contraception) page.

The content on this page was last updated on 30 November 2022