Many people are unaware that the morning after pill can actually be taken up to five days after unprotected sex.
The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP) and the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) have launched a new campaign aimed at raising more awareness about the emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) pill, better known as the morning after pill.
This pill has been available to women over the counter from community pharmacists since 2011. Prior to that, all women who wanted to avail of it had to attend a doctor and obtain a prescription first.
The EHC pill can be used as an effective method to prevent a crisis pregnancy if alternative contraception has failed or not been used. It can be used up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.
"There is a misconception that the EHC pill can only be taken the morning after unprotected sex. We would encourage women to consult a pharmacist as soon as possible after an occasion of unprotected sex," commented SHCPP programme lead, Helen Deely.
However, while the pill can be take up to five days after unprotected sex, it is time sensitive and should ideally be taken as soon as possible.
"Emergency contraception is time sensitive and its effectiveness diminishes between the time of unprotected sex and the time of taking it, making it crucial that all women are able to access it readily when necessary. The convenience and accessibility offered by community pharmacies is therefore hugely valuable in helping to prevent a crisis pregnancy," explained IPU secretary general, Darragh O'Loughlin.
Women with medical cards can also get the EHC pill free of charge directly from a pharmacist without the need for a prescription from their GP.
People are also reminded that while the EHC pill can prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms will significantly reduce this risk however.
If you have had unprotected sex and are concerned that you may have been exposed to an STI, it is important to be tested. For more information on this, click here
For more information on all forms of contraception, including the EHC pill, click here