Introduction to emergency contraception


Emergency contraception (EC) is defined as the use of any drug or device after unprotected intercourse to prevent an unintended pregnancy.1

It is an ‘after-sex’ or ‘back-up’ contraception solution.

It is also commonly known as ‘morning-after pill’ or ‘day-after pill’.

When might EC be used?

Emergency contraception can best prevent pregnancies when used soon after intercourse. It provides an important back-up in cases of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive accident (such as forgotten pills, torn condoms) and after rape or coerced sex.2

How women might explain their need for EC

  • Condom broke or slipped off
  • Missed pill, forgot to insert contraceptive ring or apply patch
  • Diaphragm or cap slipped out of place
  • Failure of withdrawal method
  • No contraception used
  • They were forced to have unprotected sex
1. Consensus statement on emergency contraception. Contraception 1995; 52: 211–3.
2. World Health Organization. (In association with the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Department of Reproductive Health and Research). Fact sheet on the safety of levonorgestrel-alone emergency contraceptive pills. Available at: Accessed October 2013.
3. Ellertson C. Fam Plann Perspect 1996; 28(2): 44-8.
4. Haspels AA and Andriesse R. Europ J Obstet Reprod Biol 1973; 3/4: 113-117.