Emergency Contraception

If your contraception has failed, you can take steps to prevent getting pregnant, find out how
Young man and young woman visiting a fairground

Every time a man and a woman have (PIV) sex, there is a chance the woman may become pregnant. Contraception stops conception (getting pregnant). But sometimes contraception may fail, for example if:

  • Your forget to take a pill
  • A condom splits or breaks
  • You are sick or have an upset stomach while taking the contraceptive pill

Take action: Young people aged 21 and under can access Free Emergency Hormonal Contraception from many pharmacists in Oxfordshire, as well from GP, Clinics and more.

Take action!

If this happens, you can take emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) as soon as possible (ideally the morning after, but you can take it within 72 hours, and other forms of emergency contraception may be taken up to five days later). If you take EHC you have a much lower chance of becoming pregnant.

You can get EHC from these places for free.

Crucial: You can get hold of Emergency Contraception lots of ways. Your School Health Nurse Service, Sexual Health Clinic, GP and pharmacists can all help. If you are a young person aged under 19 and need a school nurse during holidays or when schools are closed, you can contact the Contraception Outreach Service - call or text 07920 470 529  Mon-Fri 9-5pm or email Contraception.outreach@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk

Getting EHC free from a pharmacy

You can buy EHC at a pharmacy. Young women aged 21 and under can get EHC free of charge from pharmacies (also called chemists) on the below list. If your local pharmacy cannot offer this service, ask them to tell you where you can access free EHC. It should always be available.

Download the list of Pharmacies in Oxfordshire which provide free EHC to young people aged 21 and under. This list is updated regularly and includes information about other ways to get EHC. Remember that during Coronavirus restrictions it is crucial to phone ahead as well as check websites.

Not just the morning after

EHC is sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’. It does not have to be taken the morning after, but it will work better if you take it as soon as possible after having sex:

  • In the first 24 hours after unprotected sex it is 95% effective.
  • In the first 48 hours it is 85% effective.
  • In the first 72 hours it is 58% effective.

If you think you may need to take EHC, but it is more than 72 hours since you have had sex, you can still take one of two other kinds of emergency contraception. 

Crucial: You can get EHC from Your GP (Doctor). But make sure you tell them that you need Emergency Hormonal Contraception when you call to make the appointment. That way they know you need to be seen urgently.

Emergency Contraception is not abortion

Emergency contraception may stop ovulation (releasing the egg), fertilisation of an egg (when the sperm and egg meet), or a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus (womb).

Medical research and legal judgement are quite clear. Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. It is not abortion. Abortion can only take place after a fertilised egg has implanted in the uterus.

Instant expert: Get details about all the emergency contraception options available, and find out how they work, from Emergency Contraception on NHS Choices

Experience: ‘Everyone was friendly at the clinic’

It is normal to feel worried about accessing services for the first time. But all people need to access sexual health services. Staff are friendly and support is free and easy to access.

Experience: ‘On my first visit to the clinic I saw Carrie, the nurse. She was friendly and explained everything. She said she would not write to my doctor if I didn’t want her to. I didn’t have to give my name and address, but I didn’t mind because they said they wouldn’t write home. She asked a lot of questions about my health and my family to make sure that if I went on the Pill I wouldn’t have dangerous side effects. Then I saw the doctor. I was glad it was a lady doctor. She gave me the pills and told me how to take them and when. She said I could ring or come back if I had any problems. If you are thinking about going to a Sexual Health Clinic, don’t worry. Everyone is nice to you.’ – Rebecca


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