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

  • headaches

  • breast tenderness

  • spotting

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.

Other pharmacies:

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

Drugstore, 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

Featured pharmacy: Smiths Pharmacy at PAMA Shopping Village, Mosta. Open 7 days a week from 8am to 10pm, and sells EllaOne and Escapelle.