What is the morning-after pill?

In need of emergency contraception? No worries, we’re here for you. Sometimes, your regular contraception may fail or you might forget to use it. We understand; accidents happen. That’s why it’s important to have quick and easy access to emergency contraception when you need it.

What is the morning-after pill?

Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.

The morning-after pill, sometimes called the emergency pill, is an oral method of emergency contraception. It’s a safe and easy way to prevent pregnancy.

In the UK, there are two morning-after pills available: Levonelle and EllaOne. Levonelle contains a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. EllaOne contains ulipristal acetate to prevent natural progesterone from working properly. Both types of pills can prevent or delay ovulation.

The morning-after pill can be up to 95% effective – depending on how soon you take it after unprotected sex.

When was the morning-after pill introduced?

The morning-after pill was first licensed for use in the UK in 1984, but researchers had been working on it for a long time before that point.

In the 1920s, researchers found that oestrogen ovarian extracts affected pregnancies in mammals – so at first, this early form of contraception was only used for veterinary purposes. It wasn’t until 1966 that oral oestrogen pills were found to affect human pregnancies.

How does the morning after pill work?

The morning-after pill prevents or delays ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovaries. The hormones in the pill can also affect the lining of the uterus, making it harder for an egg to attach.

Essentially, the morning-after pill stops an egg from being released and fertilised. It does not cause an abortion.

The morning-after pill doesn’t protect against or treat STIs. If you think you might have an STI, visit your GP or local sexual health clinic.

How should you take it?

The morning-after pill is a single-dose tablet and should be swallowed whole with water. It’s most effective in the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, but can be taken later.

Levonelle is:

  • 95% effective when taken within 24 hours (one day)
  • 85% effective when taken within 48 hours (two days)
  • 58% effective when taken within 72 hours (three days)

EllaOne is similarly effective, but can be taken up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex. Again, EllaOne is less effective the later you take it.

Who can take the morning-after pill?

Most women can take the morning-after pill with no long-term side effects, including women who can’t use other hormonal contraceptives like the combined pill.

Levonelle is safe to take while breastfeeding or taking certain medications – ie for asthma, epilepsy, or HIV. Regardless of any health conditions you may have, always consult your GP or pharmacist before taking the morning-after pill .

You can take the morning-after pill if your regular contraception fails or if you miss a daily pill. You don’t need emergency contraception if you’ve missed one combined pill. However, you might want to take the morning-after pill if you’ve missed two or more combined pills or a single progestogen-only pill (POP).

  • If you’ve taken Levonelle, continue your next dose of regular contraception within 12 hours.
  • If you’ve taken EllaOne, wait at least five days before continuing with your regular contraception.

In both cases, use additional contraception, like condoms, in the meantime for:

  • seven days if you take the combined pill
  • two days if you take the POP

Side effects

There are no long-term side effects from taking the morning-after pill. However, some women do experience minor, temporary side effects after taking it, like:

  • nausea and stomach aches
  • headaches or migraines
  • changes to your next period – it may be earlier, later, or more painful than usual

Speak to your GP if these symptoms don’t go away after a few days.

Where can you get the morning-after pill and can you get one in advance?

You can get the morning-after pill from your GP, sexual health clinics, and pharmacies.

Even better, you can access the morning-after pill from Hello Eve! If approved, our prescribers can recommend and deliver the morning-after pill directly to your doorstep with just a few clicks in our online consultation.

Thanks to our discreet and timely delivery process, you can order your morning-after pill when you need it. However, you shouldn’t rely on the morning-after pill as a regular method of contraception. The morning-after pill should only be taken in an emergency and once per menstrual cycle.

If you’re looking to use the morning-after pill in advance, or regularly rely on it, consider alternative methods of contraception instead, like the daily pill. Hello Eve stocks all UK brands of the combined pill and the POP. After a quick consultation with our prescribers, Hello Eve can help you find the best pill for you.

If you would like longer-term contraception that requires less daily maintenance, the coil, the injection, or the implant might be a better option for you. Visit your GP or sexual health clinic for more information.

Are there any other methods of emergency contraception?

The intrauterine (inside the uterus) device (IUD) – sometimes called the coil – can also be used as an emergency contraceptive. If inserted within five days of unprotected sex, the coil can be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This high success rate indicates that the IUD is the most effective emergency contraceptive available.

The IUD is a small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus. It’s a non-hormonal method of contraception; instead, it works by releasing copper. The copper alters the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. This can also prevent an egg from attaching to the uterus wall.

Need both emergency contraception and long-term contraception? The IUD can be used as both. Once in place and inserted correctly, it can be effective for up to 10 years. Since it doesn’t release any hormones into your body, there are usually no side effects.

In order to get an IUD, you must undergo a minor procedure during which a nurse inserts the IUD into your uterus. Some side effects to keep in mind are that the procedure itself can be slightly uncomfortable and there may be a small risk of infection afterwards. Your periods can also become heavier, longer, and more painful for the first few months of having the IUD, too. These side effects do not happen to everyone, but everyone’s body reacts differently.

For more information, speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic.

Looking for the morning-after pill? Complete a quick consultation! Hello Eve’s prescribers will find the best treatment for you and have the pill delivered right to your door, without the awkward contact.

For more advice and information, contact the Hello Eve support team ( or visit your local health practitioner.

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