STIs that are caused by viruses such as genital herpes, HPV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV cannot be cured. However, in some cases, these infections can be managed with antiviral medications or other preventive measures to protect the baby.
If you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, make sure you get tested for STIs to protect both yourself and your baby. Find a local clinic now.
Emergency Contraception (aka the Morning After Pill)
The Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) needs to be taken within 72 hours (3 days), the earlier the better. If you need emergency contraception, see your doctor or local sexual health clinic. Find a local clinic now.
Some pharmacies provide the ECP over the counter without you having to see a doctor.
Why may I need to use emergency contraception?
If you have had vaginal sexual intercourse and you didn’t use contraception, you may become pregnant. The Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) can prevent you from becoming pregnant.
You may also need emergency contraception if you have missed a contraceptive pill, or a condom breaks.
What is the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)?
The ECP is a high-dose birth control pill containing a hormone called progesterone. The ECP stops pregnancy by preventing the release of an egg from the ovary. It may also cause changes in the lining of the uterus (womb) that discourages implantation of a fertilised egg.
The ECP can be taken up to three days following unprotected sexual intercourse. It prevents the majority of pregnancies and is most effective if taken within 24 hours. The ECP can be used at any time during the menstrual cycle. If the unprotected sex occurred more than three days ago, it is advisable to talk to your doctor or sexual health clinic as there may be other options.
How do I take them?
Take both ECP tablets together as soon as possible. It helps to take them with food as some women feel sick after taking the ECP. If you vomit within three hours of taking the pills, you should return to your doctor or clinic as you may need to take them again.
If you are already using a regular method of contraception such as the oral contraceptive pill, continue to take this as you would regularly.
What happens next?
After taking the ECP, some women may experience bleeding or spotting and some may experience an early or later start to the next menstrual period.
It is important to take a pregnancy test three to four weeks after taking the ECP to make sure that you are not pregnant, even if you have a period. There is no evidence that the ECP will affect the unborn baby if you do become pregnant.
The ECP does not give you any ongoing protection against pregnancy. It is important to use condoms or another form of contraception for ongoing protection against pregnancy. You can talk to your doctor or sexual health clinic about this, because using ECP as a regular method of birth control is not recommended.
ECP and sexually transmitted infections
Emergency contraception does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you have had unprotected sex, you should get tested by your doctor, nurse or sexual health clinic to ensure you have not contracted an STI.
The medical information in JUST THE FACTS is based on the STIEF and NZ Sexual Health Society Guidelines for the management of STIs. The New Zealand Ministry of Health supports the use of these clinical guidelines, developed by clinical experts and professional associations to guide clinical care in New Zealand.