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Preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex

If you’ve recently had sex without a condom, you might be worried about getting pregnant or impregnating your partner. We give you a timeline of steps to take to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex:

First 5 days

It can take as few as 3 days after having unprotected sex for sperm to reach and combine with an egg (fertilization). So what can you do if you had unprotected sex and it’s been up to 5 days? 

Use emergency contraception:

  • The emergency contraception pill is also known as the morning-after-pill. This method is effective for 3-5 days after unprotected sex. You’ll need a prescription from a healthcare provider to get the morning-after-pill. The sooner you take it, the more effective it is. Get to a pharmacy or clinic as soon you can after unprotected sex.
  • Get a copper intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into your vagina. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception. This type of IUD has no hormones and also provides protection against pregnancy for up to 10 years.

2 – 3 weeks after

You need to check for early signs of pregnancy. But remember, if you show these signs, there can be other reasons for them than pregnancy. You should always contact a healthcare professional. It is important to know when your last period was and to pay attention to any changes in your body. Pay attention to these signs:

  • Missed period: If you usually have a regular period and it’s been 3 or 4 days and you still haven’t had it; this may be a sign. But remember that there are many other reasons why you could miss their period.
  • Exhaustion: During early pregnancy, women face higher levels of hormones, causing them to feel tired more than usual.
  • Swollen breasts: Your breasts may feel fuller or heavier due to a higher level of hormones. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or seeing other changes to your body, you need to take a pregnancy test. Sometimes, home pregnancy tests give the wrong answer. They can tell you are pregnant when you are not. Or the other way around. To be sure, visit your closest clinic to get a free and confidential pregnancy test. 

0 – 9 weeks after

If you are pregnant and thinking about terminating the pregnancy, you can have a medical abortion. You can have this type of abortion up to 9 weeks into the pregnancy. The termination of the pregnancy happens through medication such as pills or tablets. 

This is what you should keep in mind:

  • The length of the abortion process is different for each person, but it usually takes a few days. A follow up visit to the clinic will be required.
  • You may experience symptoms similar to a miscarriage after taking the medication
  • The cramping and bleeding caused by the pills can last for several hours. You will experience what feels like a very heavy period.  Your healthcare provider will explain how to handle the pain and heavy bleeding.

0 – 12 weeks after

If you are pregnant and want to terminate, surgical abortions involve a nurse (up to 12 weeks of pregnancy) or a doctor (from 12 to 20 weeks). These are same-day procedures in a clinic or hospital to remove the pregnancy from the womb.


  • You might be given the same medication used in a medical abortion to get the process going. This happens either a few hours or 1 to 2 days before the operation, depending on the medicine used.
  • You might not bleed as much as a medical abortion once the surgical abortion is complete.

Before the next time you have sex

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