The truth is, unsafe sex can happen even if you’ve planned ahead. Whether your condom has failed or you’ve forgotten to take your contraception, sometimes it just can’t be avoided. However, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic. Luckily, there are plenty of options to help you protect yourself against the unwanted complications that may arise.
So, you’ve had unprotected sex—what happens next?
Emergency contraceptive pill
The morning after pill can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In the UK, Levonelle and ellaOne are the most common emergency contraceptive options, and they are available for free from sexual health clinics or certain GPs. They can also be purchased from pharmacies or an online clinic. Depending on the type you use, the morning after pill can be effective for three to five days after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it the better.
However, it’s important to remember that the emergency pill is a one-off and should never replace regular contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy.
A word of warning…
Remember that taking the morning after pill doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get pregnant. Also, bear in mind that these pills can sometimes cause spotting and may change your menstrual cycle, making it difficult to tell whether you are pregnant or not. If your period is more than a week late, you should take a pregnancy test.
Another type of emergency contraception is the intrauterine device (IUD), or coil. This needs to be inserted by a medical professional and can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex. Unlike emergency contraceptive pills, the IUD can be used as ongoing contraception and can be effective for around 10 years.
If you have had unprotected sex, you may also be at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to an STI, you should undergo tests as soon as possible. Common symptoms include bleeding, unusual discharge, rashes and sores around the genital area, or pain when you go to the toilet. However, note that not all STIs have symptoms.
Tests can be performed at your local sexual health clinic. Medical professionals recommend getting tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C within a couple of weeks of unprotected sex.
Avoid future emergencies
The best way to avoid the complications of STIs and unwanted pregnancies is to practise safe sex. If you sometimes forget to take your regular contraceptive pill, or you keep having problems with condoms, you may want to consider other long-term methods of contraception. It’s also a good idea to regularly check the expiry dates of your condoms.
This is a sponsored post by Lloyds Pharmacy