Information on how to get emergency contraception in Malta
Emergency contraception is used after sexual intercourse to prevent a pregnancy. It is typically used after a regular contraceptive has failed (for example a condom tearing) or after unprotected sex.
There are two main types of emergency contraception: the morning after pills which are tablets containing hormones and taken as one dose, and the copper coil (IUD). The copper coil, although available in Malta as regular contraception, is not used an emergency contraceptive in Malta due to the strict abortion laws. However, the morning after pills have been available in Malta since 2016 following a judicial protest by the Women's Rights Foundation.
The morning after pills available in Malta are the following:
- Levonorgestrel-based pills Levonelle and Escapelle that can be used up to 72 hours (3 days) after sex
- EllaOne that can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) after sex
You may have heard of the morning after pill Plan B One-Step. This is not usually available in Malta, but Levonelle and Escapelle contain the same active ingredients as Plan B One-Step.
How morning after pills work
The morning after pills work by preventing ovulation and fertilisation. You can use morning after pills at any time in your menstrual cycle, even if you think you have already ovulated. Morning after pills reduce the risk of pregnancy even when used in the second half of your menstrual cycle.
Morning after pills cannot abort a pregnancy that has already begun. If you have had a positive pregnancy test and do not wish to remain pregnant you will need to have an abortion.
The efficacy of morning after pills
On average, morning after pills prevent three out of four pregnancies that would otherwise occur. The sooner they are used, the more likely they are to work.
Levonelle and Escapelle are up to 95% effective if used in the first 24 hours after unprotected sex. The efficacy rate declines to 85% when used between 24 and 48 hours after unprotected sex, and declines further to around 55% between 48 and 72 hours after sex.
Some other medicines reduce the efficacy of the morning after pills. These include:
the herbal medicine St John's Wort (usually used to treat mild depression and anxiety)
some medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV, or tuberculosis (TB)
medicines that reduce stomach acid like Lansoprazole and Omeprazole
some less commonly used antibiotics (Rifampicin and Rifabutin)
If you take any of these medications, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist before using the morning after pill.
ellaOne is widely regarded to be more effective than Levonelle and Escapelle, particularly in cases where unprotected sex happens at the time of ovulation, and in cases where the morning after pill is taken relatively late.
Important points to note to ensure you do not get pregnant
If you vomit within two hours of taking a morning after pill (or three hours in the case of EllaOne), you will need to take another dose.
If you are obese, you may need to take a double dose of Levonelle or Escapelle. EllaOne does not need a dose adjustment in obese women.
The morning after pill only protects you once. If you have unprotected sex again, you will need to take another morning after pill. If you find yourself using morning after pills regularly, consider using regular methods of contraception. Not only are regular methods more effective at preventing pregnancy, they are also cheaper.
Possible side effects of morning after pills
Like any other medication, morning after pills can have side effects. These are usually mild and wear off after a few hours. They include:
nausea and vomiting
dizziness or tiredness
It is normal for your next period to be lighter or heavier, and earlier or later than usual.
Morning after pills are safe, and they have been used by millions of women around the world for over thirty years without any serious incidents.
Who can use the morning after pills
Most women can use the morning after pills, even those who cannot use the combined contraceptive pills or contraceptive patch for health reasons. Breastfeeding women can also use the emergency contraceptive pill.
Certain medicines (both prescribed and supplements) can affect efficacy of the morning after pills and if you take other medicines you should seek the advice of your pharmacist or doctor before using the morning after pill.
How to know that the morning after pill has worked
If your next period seems and feels like a normal period, it is unlikely that you are pregnant. However, you should do a pregnancy test if:
you have symptoms of pregnancy
your period has not arrived within 3 weeks of taking the morning after pill
you are on the regular hormone pill and you do not bleed when at the expected time
Can I take several doses of regular contraceptive pills instead of a morning after pill?
Prior to the legalisation of the morning after pills in Malta, it was common for women to be advised to use the Yuzpe method of emergency contraception, which involved taking several doses of regular contraceptive pills to inhibit ovulation. However, the morning after pills are now available and they are more effective than the Yuzpe method and have less side effects. The use of the Yuzpe method is therefore no longer recommended.
How to buy the morning after pill in Malta
The morning after pills are available in pharmacies across Malta and Gozo. You do not need a doctor's prescription to buy a morning after pill, although you should still speak to a doctor if you have health conditions that may make morning after pills unsafe and if time permits. Prices range from around EUR 20 for Levonelle and Escapelle, to around EUR 35 for EllaOne.
If you are buying the morning after pill on a Sunday or a public holiday, check this roster to see which pharmacies are open on those days.
Some pharmacists conscientiously object to dispensing the morning after pill. In these cases, the pharmacist should refer you to another pharmacy that is willing to sell the morning after pill. If you think your local pharmacist may refuse to sell you the morning after pill, you may wish to phone and ask the pharmacy before going, to save time.
List of pharmacies that stock the morning after pill in Malta and Gozo
If your local pharmacy is not on the list, you may still want to call them to check if they sell the morning after pill.
Brown's St. Mary Pharmacy, Attard
Medica Pharmacy, Balzan
Milia's Pharmacy, Birgu
Brown's Pharmacy, Birkirkara
Rational Pharmacy, Birkirkara
Remedies Pharmacy, Birkirkara
St. Anne Pharmacy, Birkirkara
Britannia Pharmacy, Birżebbuġa
Health Plus Pharmacy, Birżebbuġa
Spiżerija Carmen, Dingli
Floriana Dispensary, Floriana
Lauretana Pharmacy, Għajnsielem, Gozo
Gudja Pharmacy, Gudja
Tony's Pharmacy, Gżira
Brown's Pharmacy, Ħamrun
Fra Diego Dispensary, Ħamrun
National Pharmacy, Ħamrun
The Cross Pharmacy, Ħamrun
Iklin Pharmacy, Iklin
Il-Meħrież Pharmacy, Iklin
Milia's Pharmacy, Isla
Brown's Pharmacy, Kalkara
St. Joseph Pharmacy, Lija
St. Andrew's Pharmacy, Luqa
San Raffael Pharmacy, Marsa
Bellavista Pharmacy, Marsascala
Milia's Pharmacy, Marsascala
Pompei Pharmacy, Marsaxlokk
Brown's Pharmacy, Mellieħa
Brown's Village Pharmacy, Mellieħa
Remedies Pharmacy, Mellieħa
Rotunda Pharmacy, Mosta
Imtarfa Pharmacy, Mtarfa
Vella Pharmacy, Nadur, Gozo
Brown's Pharmacy, Naxxar
Naxxar Pharmacy, Naxxar
Brown's Paola Square Pharmacy, Paola
Brown's Pharmacy, Paola
Distinction Pharmacy, Paola
St. Monica Pharmacy, Paola
Brown's Pharmacy, Pietà
Charing Pharmacy, Pietà
Anici Pharmacy, Qormi
Brown's Pharmacy, Qormi
Tal-Ħlas Pharmacy, Qormi
Chrysanthemum Pharmacy, Qrendi
Nigret Pharmacy, Rabat
Melita Pharmacy, San Ġiljan
St. Julians Pharmacy, San Ġiljan
Mensija Pharmacy, San Ġwann
Spiżerija Kappara, San Ġwann
Fatima Pharmacy, Santa Venera
St. Bartholomew Pharmacy, Santa Venera
Remedies Pharmacy, Siġġiewi
The Bypass Pharmacy, Siġġiewi
Brown's Pharmacy, Sliema
Remedies Pharmacy, Sliema
Wales Pharmacy, Sliema
J.V.'s Pharmacy, Swieqi
Remedies Pharmacy, Ta' Xbiex
Sonren Pharmacy, Tarxien
New British Dispensary, Valletta
Castle Pharmacy, Victoria, Gozo
Medicor Pharmacy, Xgħajra
St Elias Pharmacy, Xgħajra
Felice Dispensary, Żabbar
Mediatrix Plus Pharmacy, Żabbar
Brown's Pharmacy, Żebbuġ
De Rohan Pharmacy, Żebbuġ
Gerada's Pharmacy, Żejtun
Bronja Pharmacy, Żurrieq
Milia's Pharmacy, Żurrieq