Morning-After Pill FAQs
What is the morning-after pill?
A method of preventing pregnancy when your usual contraceptive method has failed.
How does the morning-after pill work?
By temporarily changing the womb environment.
How effective is the morning-after pill?
The pill can be up to 98% effective, depending on how soon you take it.
Who can take the morning-after pill?
Women over the age of 18 who have recently had unprotected sex.
Is the morning-after pill right for me?
Most women are able to take the pill safely after a consultation with a doctor.
Is it true that the morning-after pill can make you sick?
This is possible, although rare.
Do I have any other options?
Alternatively, you can get an IUD fitted by a doctor.
How do I take the pill?
You must swallow the pill with water as soon as possible.
Will the morning-after pill protect me from future pregnancies?
No, it will only protect you once.
Will a morning-after pill protect me from sexually transmitted diseases?
No, only barrier contraceptives can do this.
Didn't find the answer you were looking for? Chat to us. LiveChat
The morning-after pill can prevent you from becoming pregnant if your usual contraception has failed, or if you have had unprotected sex.
The morning-after pill that's most frequently used in the UK is called Levonelle One Step or Levonelle 1500. It should be taken within three days (72 hours) of you having unprotected sex. There is also a new morning after pill called ellaOne, which can be taken up to five days after you have unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
Levonelle and ellaOne both work by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg. They also alter the lining of your womb to prevent the fertilised egg from embedding itself there.
The sooner you take the morning-after pill after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, the more effective it is. If you take Levonelle within the first 24 hours, it is 95% effective. If taken after this time, the success rate is around 90%. ellaOne has a success rate of 98%, but is also more effective the earlier you take it.
The morning-after pill is useful for women over the age of 18 who have had unprotected sex or whose regular contraceptive has failed. Levonelle may be purchased in pharmacies by women as young as 16, but you have to be 18 or over to buy it online. This method of emergency contraception will not work if you are already pregnant.
Most women can take the morning-after pill, even those who have been advised not to take the regular ongoing contraceptive pill. This includes women with a family or past history of breast cancer, women over the age of 35 and women who smoke. The morning-after pill has relatively few side effects and there is no evidence that using emergency contraceptive pills damages your future fertility.
Some medicines, both prescription and complimentary, can have a negative effect on the efficacy of the morning-after pill. You should always inform your doctor if you are taking any medication before taking the emergency contraceptive pill.
The newer emergency contraceptives have reduced the chance of you experiencing nausea by half, compared to older pills prescribed before 1990. It's estimated that nausea affects less than a quarter of women who take the morning-after pill, and only 1 in 60 women are actually physically sick after taking it.
One alternative is an IUD, which is a small plastic and copper device that is fitted to the womb to prevent an egg from being fertilised. An IUD can be fitted up to five days after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. They are 98% effective, and once fitted can continue to offer protection against conception for three to ten years.
IUDs need to be fitted by a doctor or nurse, but the procedure is not common in the UK and you may have difficulty finding a practitioner who offers the procedure. Although IUDs are successful for most women, a small number find the device uncomfortable to wear and may find it unsuitable.
Each pack of emergency contraceptives contains a single pill. You must swallow the pill with water as soon after unprotected sex as possible. This has replaced the old method of taking two lower strength pill,s 12 hours apart.
The morning-after pill is effective only once in protecting pregnancy per menstrual cycle. You should continue to wear a condom to prevent conception. If you are taking a continuous form of contraception, you should still wear a condom at least until you start a new cycle.
The morning-after pill offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The only way to protect against infection is to wear a barrier contraceptive, such as a condom.