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Pt 4 of our contraception review looks at Emergency Contraception and other "non-contraceptive uses

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Contraceptives Part 4


Emergency contraception


Emergency contraception, commonly referred to as the morning-after pill, is available by GP prescription or over the counter in pharmacies. Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the regular method of contraception fails, such as a broken condom or missed contraceptive pill. Levonorgestrel and ulipristal are two types of emergency contraception pills. While levonorgestrel works primarily by preventing ovulation, ulipristal is a selective progesterone receptor modulator that blocks the effects of progesterone, delaying ovulation and altering the endometrial lining.


To be effective, the emergency contraceptive pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, ideally within the first 24 hours. Levonorgestrel will work up to 72 hours after intercourse while ulipristal has the advantage over levonorgestrel in that it can be taken within a maximum of 120 hours after sexual intercourse but bear in mind the effectiveness of all emergency contraceptive pills decrease with time, so the sooner emergency contraception is taken, the more effective it is in preventing pregnancy.


While both can be effective if taken within a certain timeframe, ulipristal is considered more effective than levonorgestrel, particularly when taken closer to ovulation. Both are available over the counter in pharmacies in ireland without a doctor's prescription after consultation with a pharmacist. Emergency contraception is free from with a GP prescription or over the counter in pharmacies (after a pharmacist consultation) to medical card holders. Emergency contraceptives are not a replacement for regular contraception.


Other uses of contraceptives


  • Regulating periods: Some forms of contraception can help regulate the menstrual cycle, making periods lighter and more predictable.


  • Treating medical conditions: Certain types of contraception, such as hormonal contraceptives, can help treat medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and painful periods.


  • Improving acne: As mentioned earlier, hormonal contraceptives can help improve acne by regulating the hormones that contribute to acne breakouts. (e.g., Dianette®)


  • Reducing the risk of certain cancers: Some forms of contraception can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer like ovarian and endometrial cancer.


To be continued… next week I discuss side effects of contraceptives and the new initiative for free contraception for all women 17 to 26 in Ireland.


For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacies, log on to or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).


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