The morning after pill is an effective form of contraceptive that can be used after penetrative sexual intercourse to avoid pregnancy. There are two types of emergency contraception available on the market at the moment, on containing levonorgestrel (levonelle or generic) and the other Ulipristal (EllaOne). Both have their own advantages. The third type available through your doctor is the IUD (Intrauterine Device). This can also double as a normal regular contraception and will need to be discussed with your doctor as an option.
How does the morning after pill work?
Emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) is taken after unprotected sex to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It only needs to be taken if no other contraceptive was used (i.e. condoms or daily pill) or the other form of contraceptive failed (e.g. split condom). EHC should only be used in an emergency and not as a regular form of contraception.
EHC is more effective at preventing pregnancy if it is taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It isn’t 100% effective but is more likely to work the sooner it is taken. This goes for both types available. That doesn’t mean that that the tablets will not be effective if taken later. Levonelle can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. Ellaone is a newer treatment and can be taken up to 120 hours after sex (5 days) to prevent pregnancy. Both are effective but Levonelle has a 95% success rate if it is taken within 24 hours, but EllaOne maintains the 95% success rate all the way to 120 hours (5 days).
The morning after pill doesn’t affect your normal cycle or interfere with any regular contraception you may be using. It’s very unlikely to cause any long term adverse effects and also doesn’t interfere with your ability to get pregnant in the future. (NHS)
Levonelle 1500mcg (Levonorgestrel)
Levonelle was the first branded EHC tablet to be made available over the counter. It was originally sold as two 750mcg tablets but after further evidence was gathered it was changed to a single 1500mcg tablet. It is an effective morning after pill and can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. It becomes less effective the longer you wait to take it after intercourse but has a 95% success rate if it’s taken within 24 hours. It stops the ovaries from releasing an egg which means it cannot get fertilised.
EllaOne is a newer EHC option. It was originally a prescription only medicine but was reclassified for purchase over the counter. It’s a single 30mg tablet that can be taken up to 120 hours after sex and has a 95% success rate all the way to the 5 day mark. It stops ovulation and thus the release of an egg.