Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It could also avoid gestation when the contraception you have used has failed, such as when a condom splits or you have missed taking a pill.
Below are some of the things you need to know about emergency contraception:
- For the emergency contraceptive pill to be effective, you must take it within 3 (Levonelle) or 5 (ellaOne) days of unprotected intercourse; the sooner you take it, the more successful it will be.
- For an IUD to be effective, it can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex or 5 days after the earliest time you could have ovulated.
- The IUD is more successful in preventing pregnancy than the contraceptive pill; less than 1% of women who use the IUD become pregnant.
- Taking the emergency contraceptive tablets Levonelle or ellaOne might cause headaches, stomachaches, and sickness.
- The emergency contraceptive pill may cause your next period to arrive earlier, be delayed, or be more uncomfortable than usual.
- Visit your doctor, pharmacist, or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic if you vomit within 2 hours of taking Levonelle or 3 hours of taking ellaOne, as you will need to take another dose or have an IUD inserted.
- If you use an IUD as an emergency contraception, you can leave it in and use it as your usual method of contraception.
- If you use the IUD as a regular contraceptive technique, your periods may become longer, heavier, or more painful.
- When the IUD is inserted, you may experience some discomfort, although painkiller medications can help.
- There are no significant adverse effects associated with emergency contraception.
- Emergency contraception does not cause an abortion.
Contact a physician or registered nurse if you have used emergency contraception and:
- You are anxious or concerned about any symptoms,
- You believe you may be pregnant,
- If your next period is more than 7 days late or if it is shorter or lighter than usual,
- If you experience any sudden or unusual lower abdominal pain.
- Pain in the lower abdomen (stomach) that is sudden or unusual may indicate an ectopic pregnancy. This is uncommon yet life-threatening and requires emergency medical intervention.
How to Use Morning after Pill?
Levonelle contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of the ovarian hormone progesterone that is usually produced by the ovaries. Levonelle prevents or delays the discharge of an egg (ovulation). A Levonelle pill must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It does not interfere with your regular contraceptive method.
ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate, which inhibits the normal functioning of progesterone. This also works by preventing or delaying egg release. To prevent pregnancy, ellaOne must be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of sexual activity.
Things to remember if you use Levonelle or ellaOne
You are no longer protected against pregnancy if you engage in unprotected sexual activity after taking the emergency contraceptive. They are not intended for use as a regular contraceptive method. However, emergency contraception can be used more than once per menstrual cycle if necessary.
Is the morning after pill free?
Both Levonelle and ellaOne are available and free of charge from:
- Contraception clinics
- Brook centres
- Most pharmacies
- Most sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- Most NHS walk-in services and minor injury units
- Most GP surgeries
- Some hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments
- Clinic for sexual health
- Some young people’s clinics.
You can also buy Levonelle and ellaOne. It is also available at most pharmacies and from organisations such as BPAS.
Levonelle can be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sexual activity, but it is most effective when taken within 12 hours.
ellaOne can be used within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex. However, it is most effective if taken as soon as feasible.
The IUD (intrauterine device) is offered by:
Contraception clinics are located at most sexual health or GUM clinics and general practitioner offices in Brook centres. IUDs are the most effective emergency contraception method. It is inserted into your uterus and must be fitted by a physician or nurse.
It must be inserted within five days of unprotected sexual activity or, if ovulation can be estimated, up to five days following ovulation. You can keep the IUD as your primary method of contraception, or a physician or nurse can remove it before your next period.
Who can use the morning after pill?
The majority of women can use an emergency contraception pill. This includes women who cannot usually use hormonal contraception, such as the pill and contraceptive patch. Girls under the age of 16 may also utilise it with a prescription.
However, you may not be able to use the emergency contraceptive pill if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, if you have severe asthma, or if you are on any of the following medications:
- The herbal remedy St. John's Wort
- Some medicines that are used to treat epilepsy, HIV, or tuberculosis (TB)
- Omeprazole, an antacid medication used to lessen stomach acid
- Rifampicin and rifabutin
If you are already taking one of these medications, you cannot use the ellaOne since it may not function. Levonelle can still be administered; however, the dosage may need to be raised.
Tell a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist what medications you are taking, and they can advise you if the emergency contraceptive pill is safe to take with them. For additional details, you can also see the patient information leaflet with your medication.
Levonelle is safe to administer when breastfeeding. Although small levels of hormones from the pill may transfer into breast milk, it is not believed to be detrimental to the infant. Using ellaOne during breastfeeding is not yet known, however, the manufacturer advises against breastfeeding for one week after using this medication.
Or, if you would like to learn more about contraception or see our range of medications, go to our contraception information page here.
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