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About the morning after pill
The morning after pill is a type of emergency contraception. It can prevent pregnancy if you have had unprotected sex, or other contraception has not worked, like when a condom splits. It is important to know that the morning after pill does not cause an abortion.
The morning after pill contains a hormone which stops ovulation and is most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex. For example, Levonorgestrel can prevent 95% of pregnancies when taken within 24 hours. It is 85% effective when taken 24 to 48 hours after and 58% effective if taken 48 to 72 hours after. If you vomit (be sick) within 2 to 3 hours, you must take another dose or it may not work.
You can access emergency contraception from us, your doctor, or by visiting a sexual health clinic. While the morning after pill can be used as emergency contraception, an intrauterine device (IUD) or copper coil (a device that is inserted into the womb) is the most effective emergency contraception. Less than 1% of women that use the IUD will get pregnant and it can be used to protect from future pregnancies too.
Most morning after pills are a single dose medication. This means you will just need to take one tablet. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor. The sooner you take a morning after pill, the more effective it will be.
The morning after pill can have side effects, such as vomiting (being sick). If you vomit within 2 to 3 hours of taking the morning after pill, you must take another one for it to work. The morning after pill should not be used as a regular contraception and you can still get pregnant if you have unprotected sex after taking it.
Some medications can interact with the morning after pill so speak to our doctors if you take any other medication.
You can use the morning after pill more than once, but this may increase the risk of side effects and is not as reliable as regular contraception, meaning you are more likely to become pregnant. You should use another form of contraception regularly, like a condom or the contraceptive pill. You can use the morning after pill if you make a mistake with your regular contraception, or it is not working. EllaOne can interact with other contraceptives, making both less effective. Speak to your doctor if you take other contraception.
This pill must be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex to be effective. It can be taken if you are on other contraception but it is possible for EllaOne to make your contraception less effective. So you must wait 5 days before using your next patch, ring, or taking your contraceptive pill. Ellaone is not suitable if you are on HIV treatment and some other medications, including herbal medicines like St John’s Wort. Speak to your doctor first if you take other medications. This pill is a better choice for people who need the morning after pill more than 3 days after unprotected sex. You must take another dose if you vomit within 3 hours. This is a one dose medication.
This pill must be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex for it to be effective. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it will be. It is suitable for most women, but some medications can make Levonelle less effective, so speak to your doctor before taking Levonelle if you take any other medications. This is also a one dose medication. If it has been over 3 days since you had unprotected sex, Levonelle will not be effective. You must take another dose if you vomit within 2 hours.
This pill is the same as Levonelle, Levonorgestrel is simply the generic form. If you vomit within 2 hours, you must take another dose. Like Levonelle, Levonorgestrel must be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex for it to work. It is suitable for most women.
The morning after pill may have some side effects but these are not serious and will not last long, as you are only taking one dose of the medication.
The most common side effects of the morning after pill are:
- stomach pain
- changes to your period, it may be late, early, or more painful
- nausea or vomiting
These should go away on their own after treatment but make sure to get another dose of the morning after pill if you vomit within 2 or 3 hours, depending on which treatment you take.
Speak to your doctor if these symptoms last longer than a few days or:
- your period is over 7 days late
- your period is a lot lighter than usual
- you think you are pregnant
- you have sharp, sudden pains in your lower stomach, as this may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy
The morning after pill known as Levonelle (levonorgestrel) is 95% effective if taken in the first 24 hours. If you wait a couple of days to take Levonelle, it will be less effective. For Levonelle to be effective, you must take it within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
EllaOne is a morning after pill that is 98% effective, and you must take it within 120 hours to prevent pregnancy.
The morning after pill will be more effective if you take it as soon as you can after unprotected sex, and if you have not ovulated (released an egg) yet during your menstrual cycle.
If you vomit up to 2 hours after taking Levonelle, or 3 hours after taking EllaOne, the morning after pill will not be effective and you will have to take another pill.
The morning after pill is safe for most women to take, even if you are on other forms of contraception. There are no foods that you must avoid and alcohol does not affect the morning after pill. The morning after pill may not be suitable for you if you are allergic to some medications, take certain medications, or have severe asthma.
Speak to your doctor before getting the morning after pill if you take:
- HIV medication
- epilepsy medication
- St John’s wort
- omeprazole, or other acid reflux medications
- tuberculosis (TB) medication
The main other type of emergency contraception is an IUD. Also called the copper coil, an IUD reduces the risk of pregnancy by 99%, making it the most effective form of emergency contraception. With this, a T shaped device is inserted into the womb, which releases copper to stop an egg from being fertilised. A doctor or health care professional must provide you with an IUD.
No, the morning after pill will not work during or after ovulation (when you release an egg from your ovaries).
The morning after pill delays ovulation, so taking it during ovulation will not stop you from getting pregnant.
If you have unprotected sex while you are ovulating and need emergency contraception, speak to your doctor about getting an IUD put into your womb.
If you vomit after taking the morning after pill, you may need to take another of the same one you took, depending on how many hours have passed.
For Levonelle, if it’s been less than 2 hours, you will need to take another pill. And for EllaOne, if it’s been less than 3 hours, you will need to take another pill.
You should not take Levonelle and EllaOne on the same day.
If you vomit within those times, you need to speak to a pharmacist or doctor to get another morning after pill. The sooner you take it, the more effective it will be.
Yes, you can get pregnant after taking the morning after pill.
While the morning after pill is more than 95% effective, if you take it up to 24 hours after having unprotected sex, its effectiveness goes down the later you to take it. The morning after pill is also not effective if you have already ovulated.
The morning after pill does not prevent pregnancy if you have sex after taking it, so you should only take it in an emergency, such as:
- after a condom breaks
- if you miss your contraceptive pill
- after you have unprotected sex
You should use protection such as condoms or hormonal contraception (like the pill) to prevent pregnancy. The morning after pill is not a form of contraception that you should use regularly.
If you take the morning after pill while you are pregnant, it will not affect the developing baby. If you think you might be pregnant, you should take a pregnancy test before you take a morning after pill.
You can take the morning after pill while breastfeeding, but you should let your doctor know before you do.
If you take Levonelle, it is safe to continue breastfeeding as normal.
If you take EllaOne, you should stop breastfeeding for a week after you take it.
Dr Kathryn Basford
Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.Meet our doctors
Article created: 31 Aug 2021
Last reviewed: 04 Nov 2021
Ectopic pregnancy (2018) NHS (Accessed 02 August 2021)
Emergency contraception (2021) Terrence Higgins Trust (Accessed 02 August 2021)
Emergency contraception (morning after pill, IUD) (2018) NHS (Accessed 02 August 2021)
Levonorgestrel (2016) MedlinePlus (Accessed 02 August 2021)
Morning after pill (2021) Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Accessed 02 August 2021)
Order the morning after pill online
(Reviews are for ZAVA UK)(10)