You’re reading Part 3 in our Sexual Health series, brought to you by Just the Facts.


Uh oh. You’ve just had sex and… the condom broke.

Or the pull out method didn’t happen quickly enough.

Or you/your partner is on the birth control pill but threw up/is on antibiotics/ate a giant bag of grapefruit and it may be ineffective…

If getting pregnant is not what you want, then you need the ECP or Emergency Contraceptive Pill. And you need it, fast.

The ECP will prevent the majority of pregnancies and is most effective within 24 hours – but needs to be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of intercourse. Basically it’s a case of the sooner the better.

How does the ECP prevent pregnancy? Think of it as a one-off, high dosage birth control pill. It contains a hormone called progesterone which prevents the egg being released from the ovaries, and may also change the uterine lining to discourage a fertilised egg being implanted.

A lot of places will give you the ECP for free: ask your local clinic, GP, or school/campus nurse. You can also buy it from the chemist.

Find out more about the ECP at

And remember that the E stands for EMERGENCY – it shouldn’t replace a more regular birth control, and will not prevent the transmission of STIs.

For more information about sexual health, visit
Just The Facts – brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF), an initiative funded by the Ministry of Health through collective District Health Boards to educate New Zealanders about sexual health and STIs.