Morning-After Pill Treatments
If you are worried that you may become pregnant after having unprotected sex, or if your contraceptive method has failed, there are a number of treatments you can take to prevent conception. The following page contains information on the various morning-after pill treatments for use either as an immediate solution or to offer peace of mind for the long-term.
Dr Hilary Jones discusses the two morning-after pills
Levonelle One Step and ellaOne are two easy to take morning-after pills that can be used to prevent pregnancy. Levonelle works for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, while ellaOne works for up to 120 hours. However, both pills are more effective the sooner you take them. An alternative treatment, the intrauterine device (IUD), can be fitted into your womb up to five days after sex to prevent pregnancy. This treatment is more complicated to implement, but it will provide long term contraception.
Levonelle One Step
Levonelle should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, ideally within 12 hours. The morning-after pill will not be effective if you only take a tablet after 72 hours. Levonelle contains the active ingredient levonorgestrel, a synthetic derivative of the naturally occurring female hormone, progestogen. Levonorgestrel tricks the body into thinking that ovulation has taken place, preventing the release of eggs. It also affects the lining at the neck of the womb, to prevent sperm from entering.
This morning-after pill can be taken at any time during your menstrual cycle, unless you are overdue your period. However, this treatment must not be used if you suspect you might be pregnant. It's advised that you use condoms until your next period arrives after taking this morning-after pill, even if you are using continuous contraceptive pills.
This oral emergency contraceptive pill can be taken for up to 120 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Studies have shown that for every 100 women that take ellaOne during this five day time period, only two will become pregnant. The active ingredient in this morning-after pill is ulipristal acetate, which works in a very similar way to levonorgestrel. However, while levonorgestrel interferes with ovulation in the early stages of the egg's development, this medication delays the release of the egg from the ovary.
Although ellaOne is effective for longer, it is still more effective at protecting pregnancy the sooner you take it. This morning-after pill is currently only available on prescription.
As an alternative to taking a morning-after pill, a very small copper and plastic device called an IUD can be placed inside the womb to prevent pregnancy. Most IUDs are T shaped and will have either one or two small threads that hang a short distance into your vagina, which are gently pulled when the device needs to be removed. Like the morning-after pill, they too prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from getting into your womb. They also alter the secretions in your cervix and affect your womb lining to prevent an egg from being accepted.
IUDs are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, but you must visit your local family planning clinic to have one fitted. Most GPs and gynaecologists will not have experience of fitting an IUD. A small number of women have experienced discomfort during and after they have had an IUD inserted, which is why many patients prefer to opt for a more convenient treatment such as our morning-after pills.
What's the next step to take?
Morning-after pills can be ordered online as a precautionary treatment to be kept in case you need them. You can take a free, confidential online consultation with one of our doctors to receive either Levonelle or ellaOne tablets to use the very next day. You will need to answer some basic questions about your health in our consultation, which allows our doctor to ensure the morning-after pill is suitable for your condition.