Emergency contraception

The morning after pill reduces your chance of getting pregnant after unprotected sex. So if you've not used contraception, or you’ve had a problem with your regular contraception, like a condom has broken or you forgot to take your pill, take a look at these options. It’s also called the emergency contraceptive pill.

There are two types of morning after pill

You can take ellaOne within 5 days (120 hours) or Levonelle within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sex.

Illustration of an IUD non hormonal coil

Did you know?

The most effective emergency contraception is the non-hormonal coil (IUD) if it's fitted within 5 days of unprotected sex.

Support from our expert team

If we cannot deliver the pill you want in time for it to work, we’ll help you consider your other options to find what works best for you.

Our emergency contraception

We offer both types of morning after pill online, ellaOne and Levonelle.

You can take ellaOne up to 5 days after unprotected sex and Levonelle up to 3 days after. 

ellaOne - 1 30mg tablet, ulipristal acetate, emergency contraception, take one tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure

ellaOne

From £30.00

Take up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Levonelle 1500 microgram tablet, levonogestrel, 1 tablet for oral use

Levonelle

From £22.00

Take up to 3 days after unprotected sex.

About emergency contraception

How does the emergency pill work?

Levonelle and ellaOne contain different drugs that help prevent pregnancy. But they work in a similar way. Both pills delay an egg being released (ovulation). This means that if you’ve already ovulated, taking an emergency contraceptive pill will not help prevent pregnancy.

It's difficult to know when you've ovulated, so you should take the emergency contraceptive pill and do a pregnancy test in 3 weeks time.

Emergency contraception is not meant to be used as a regular form of contraception, because it's not as effective as other methods. But, if you need to, you can use it more than once in a menstrual cycle.

Make sure you take the same type again. Do not take ulipristal acetate (like in ellaOne) and levonorgestrel (like in Levonelle) within 7 days of each other as this reduces effectiveness.

When you can use emergency contraception

You need to take ellaOne within 5 days (120 hours) of having unprotected sex and Levonelle within 3 days (72 hours). Both pills work best if you take them within 24 hours of sex.

Using an IUD as emergency contraception

The best method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex is a non-hormonal coil or intrauterine device (IUD). You need to have it fitted within the 5 days after you had sex or within 5 days of when you expect to ovulate. It works better than both types of pills.

The IUD is a small T-shaped device that a doctor or nurse will put into your womb. It works for up to 10 years. You can get an IUD at some GPs or your local sexual health clinic.

If you want to use the IUD, we recommend taking an emergency contraceptive pill as well. Just in case you cannot get the IUD fitted in time.

Effectiveness

The emergency contraceptive pills will prevent 50-66% of pregnancies.

It's sometimes said that it's more effective than this, around 97-99% effective. We don't use that figure because we don't think it gives the full story - not everyone who takes this pill would get pregnant without it. For example, they might have had sex during a non-fertile time in their menstrual cycle.

How the morning after pill affects hormonal contraception

If you regularly use a hormonal contraception like

  • the combined pill or progestogen only pill

  • the patch

  • the ring

  • a hormonal coil

  • the injection

  • the implant

and there's been an issue that means you're worried about being protected, you can take the morning after pill. But there are some things you should be aware of.

The active ingredient in Levonelle is levonorgestrel (LNG). This doesn’t interact with other methods of contraception.

ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate (UPA). Other hormonal contraception (the patch, pill or vaginal ring) or long-term methods like the hormonal coil or injection can make ellaOne less effective. And ellaOne can stop your regular contraception from working properly.

If you use one of these methods, do not take ellaOne unless you’ve had a 7 day break from your usual contraception. After you've taken ellaOne, you’ll need to wait 5 days before restarting your usual contraception. You can use condoms during this time.

With both types of pill, when you restart your usual hormonal method you should make sure it's fully effective again before you rely on it for protection. Use condoms during this time.

Side effects of the emergency contraceptive pill

There are no serious side effects or health risks related to these pills. They can sometimes make you feel or be sick after taking them. And they can also cause stomach pain and headaches.

If you are sick (vomit) in the first 3 hours after taking one of these tablets, contact us or go to your nearest sexual health clinic as you should get a second dose.

If you're breastfeeding or chestfeeding, Levonelle is safe to take. If you choose to take ellaOne, you’ll need to wait 7 days after taking the tablets before feeding your child. Feed with an alternative, like formula milk and discard your breast milk during this time.

Before we prescribe your emergency contraception to use now, we’ll ask you some questions to make sure it’s suitable for you. It's important to tell us about any medical conditions you have, and any contraception, medication or herbal remedies you take. These can affect how well the pill works.

If you're ordering the morning after pill to use in the future, then things might change by the time you need to take the pill. Make sure you check the instruction leaflet included and make sure it's safe for you to take.

Order now, use later

Why not order an extra dose of emergency contraception to use later? It can be reassuring to have a ‘just in case’ pill in case condoms break or come off.

You might also want to take a look at the options for longer-lasting contraception. The Mirena coil (IUS), copper coil (IUD), combined hormonal patch, vaginal ring or progestogen only injectable can protect against pregnancy without you needing to take a pill every day.

If you need help to find the right contraception, or if you’re worried about anything to do with sex, text our expert clinicians. We’re here to help.

Written by Antigoni Kaliviotis. Nurse Prescriber
Reviewed by Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director

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