In a sample of women presenting for postcoital contraception in central London, two main categories of women were apparent. The first comprised those having regular intercourse: the majority of these had experienced a contraceptive method failure. Many of the second category had used no contraceptive; they were often having intercourse for the first or second time with a new partner, for the first time after an interval with an existing partner or for the first time ever. Many women had experienced difficulty in finding out where they could be treated but were persistent in their efforts to obtain the necessary expert advice. Almost all had used contraception in the past. Acceptance of a contraceptive method for future use was high.