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What to do in an emergency

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Unprotected sex happens and contraception can fail. If this happens, you might need emergency contraception.

It is definitely best to be prepared before having sex, but if you do have unprotected sex, there are two options for emergency contraception:


Having unprotected sex means you could become pregnant or get an STI.  

There are many situations where you should use emergency contraception:

  • You didn’t use contraception
  • Your contraception failed, e.g. the condom broke or came off
  • You missed more than one contraceptive pill
  • You had vomiting or diarrhoea while on the pill
  • It was more than 14 weeks since your  Depo Provera injection

Remember: If you have had unprotected sex, you may need to get an STI test two weeks later.


You can take the ECP up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, but it is best to take it as soon as possible.

The ECP is sometimes called the “morning-after pill”. This is confusing because it works longer than just the “morning after” – it works for up to three days after unprotected sex.

A copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception if you get it within 5 days after unprotected sex. This is a really good option because once it's in place, your contraception is sorted for the next five to ten years.


For women who weigh more than 70kg, the ECP is less effective. In this case, you might want to use a copper IUD for emergency contraception.

If you are over 70kg it is important to discuss your options with a doctor or nurse as soon as possible to decide what would be best for you.


There are often myths surrounding the ECP. Here we bust four of the more common ones:

1. Taking the ECP makes it harder for you to get pregnant later on

WRONG – It doesn’t affect your ability to get pregnant in future at all.

2. It is dangerous to use the ECP more than once

WRONG – It doesn’t cause you harm at all. However it’s not a good idea to use it as a regular method of contraception because it’s not as effective as other contraceptive methods.

3. The ECP causes an abortion

WRONG – It doesn’t cause an abortion; it just stops sperm reaching (fertilising) the egg. And it doesn’t work if you are already pregnant.

4. You can’t take the ECP if you’re taking antibiotics

WRONG – It is still effective if you are on antibiotics.


If you have unprotected sex and need the ECP you could:

  • visit a Family Planning clinic. It will be free if you are under 22 and for everyone else it will cost you the price of the appointment. You can make an appointment, visit during drop-in hours, or have a phone appointment
  • go to a pharmacy. The ECP will cost you between $35 and $50

For more information, see our Summer Advice page.

If you would like to have a copper IUD, make an appointment at Family Planning to talk to a nurse about this option.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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