Emergency contraception: the morning after pill


You don’t need to get a prescription from your doctor.

By NetDoctor

Sex should be pleasurable and worry-free – which is why it’s important to be clued up on your emergency contraception options for when things don’t quite go to plan. Here are the seven things you really need to know.

What is emergency contraception?

There are two forms of emergency contraception that can be used after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, namely the morning after pill and the emergency IUD (also known as ‘the emergency coil’).

When it comes to the morning after pill – you have a choice of two different pills – containing either ulipristal acetate or levonorgestrel. You should speak to a healthcare professional about the various treatments available and the differences in effectiveness to ensure you are informed about your options, and can make a choice based on what is most suitable for you.

Can you buy the morning after pill online?

Surprisingly, only 7 per cent of women are aware that it is possible to order the morning after pill online. In order to do this, you must complete a selection of health-related questions on the pharmacy website to ensure the medication is appropriate for you in terms of time frame, interactions and allergies.

After the answers have been checked and approved you can arrange delivery or collection from pharmacy.

⚠️ For online pharmacies offering this service, visit ellaOne. But remember: emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken.

Do you need a doctor’s appointment?

If you need emergency contraception you can head straight to the pharmacy to get the morning after pill after a quick consultation with the pharmacist – you don’t need to get a prescription from your doctor, although it is also possible to go down this route, too.

How does the morning after pill work?

Contrary to popular belief, the morning after pill does not cause an ’emergency period’ or an abortion. It actually works by delaying egg release (ovulation), meaning that the sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes will be unable to meet an egg and fertilise it.

This is similar to regular contraceptive pills, which mostly work by preventing egg release. If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception will not interrupt your pregnancy.

⚠️ Emergency contraception won’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

Does the morning after pill affect fertility?

Emergency contraception has no effect on future fertility, so it won’t protect you from pregnancy if you have unprotected sex again several days after taking it.

If you want to have sex after using emergency contraception, use a barrier method, such as a condom.

Do you have to take it the morning after?

Although oral emergency contraceptive pills must be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, don’t panic if you haven’t been able to get it immediately. 

  • Levonorgestrelcan be taken within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sex.
  • ellaOne(ulipristal acetate) can be taken within 5 days (120 hours).

Both pills work by preventing or delaying ovulation and must therefore be taken as soon as possible, as they are not effective if ovulation has already taken place. They are less effective the later you leave it.

The emergency IUD can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated.


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