The morning after pill should only be used in emergencies but if you need it, you need to get it quickly.

What is it?

This is emergency contraception that can be taken AFTER having sex.

If a girl's had sex without using contraception, or used a condom but it broke, she can take the morning-after pill up to three days (or 72 hours) afterwards, or have an IUD fitted up to five days afterwards, to stop herself becoming pregnant.

This kind of contraception is just for emergencies because it's not as reliable as the pill or condoms and doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

If it's over five days since you had unprotected sex, still see your GP or family planning clinic to discuss your options.

How does it work?

Morning-after pills contain hormones to stop ovaries releasing eggs. They also make the womb slippery so fertilised eggs can't stick to it - and therefore can't develop into a baby.

Where can I get the morning-after pill?

It's free from your GP or family planning clinic (ask for an immediate appointment). Or over 16s can buy it from most chemists for about £25. Some chemists provide free morning-after pills, paid for by the NHS. Ask your pharmacist.

Don't be nervous about asking for it. Pharmacists get asked for it all the time, and better that then risking pregnancy if you're not ready.

How do I take the morning-after pill?

Gulp it down. As soon as possible.

Nowadays, most of us only need to take one tablet. Rather than a second, identical tablet 12 hours later. But ask the chemist or doctor and follow the instructions.

Will I need a check-up afterwards?

You don't need to go back to your doctor or family planning clinic unless you think you might be pregnant (for example, if your period is late, or shorter or lighter than usual). The morning-after pill isn't 100% effective, so it's possible. Bear in mind that the hormones in this pill can make your next period different. So don't panic - you may not be pregnant!

Most importantly, get yourself fixed up with some regular contraception to avoid needing the morning-after pill again.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.

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