Morning After Pill Treatments
What is the Morning After Pill?
Emergency contraception is a medication that stops women from getting pregnant following unprotected sex or failure of regular contraception (e.g. split condom or missed contraceptive pill).
It is termed ‘emergency contraception’ as it will only be successful in preventing pregnancy for a short period of time after sex. Also the use of this form of contraception should be reserved for urgent situations and it should not be used as regular contraception.
There are two different ‘morning after pills’ in the UK: Levonelle 1500 and ellaOne which are commonly used as emergency contraception.
How does the Morning After Pill work?
The two ‘morning after pills’ or emergency contraceptive pills differ slightly in the way they work.
Levonelle 1500 contains Levonogestrel which is a synthetic version of the female hormone, progestogen. It acts to prevent pregnancy by stopping or delaying the egg being released (ovulation) and embedded in the womb.
ellaOne contains Ulipristal, which acts to interfere with the action of progestogen and in turn prevents or delays ovulation.
How effective is the Morning After Pill?
The effectiveness of emergency contraception is dependent on certain factors including the period of time that has passed since sexual intercourse.
Levonelle will only work when taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. It is 95% effective when taken within 12 hours of intercourse but only 58% effective if taken between 48-72 hours after having sex as effectiveness decreases with time.
EllaOne is 95% effective when taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sexual intercourse.
Can I use emergency contraception if I am already pregnant?
Emergency contraception should not be used if you are already pregnant, these medications will not terminate an existing pregnancy. You should speak to your GP if you think you are already pregnant.
Pregnancy may be suspected if you’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse or failure of contraceptive cover already during your current menstrual cycle.
Can I take emergency contraception whilst on 'the pill'?
You can use emergency oral contraception if you are taking combined (‘the pill’) or progesterone-only (‘mini-pill’) oral contraceptives, however there will be extra precautions you should take depending on which medication you are using.
Can I buy the Morning After Pill for future use?
The ‘morning after pill’ may be purchased in advance of anticipated sexual intercourse. This may be most convenient for some individuals in certain situations. However, long-term contraception should always be considered if you are having regular sexual intercourse and do not want to get pregnant.
Emergency Contraception is not supposed to be used as regular contraception. If you are having sex regularly there are multiple forms of contraception you can use, some are available only from your GP whilst others can be brought from most pharmacies.
Contraception options include:
- Barrier Contraceptives such as condoms & diaphragms
- Hormonal Contraception which are available for women in the form of patches, injection, implants and tablets (‘the pill’)
- Intrauterine Devices or Systems
- Vaginal Rings
- Natural Family Planning
Emergency Contraception vs Abortion
Emergency contraception is not a form of abortion as it is designed to be used during small period of time after intercourse to prevent pregnancy by stopping the implantation of an egg into the womb. Abortion on the other hand involves termination of the foetus up to 24 weeks of pregnancy by law.
It is also important to note that the ‘morning after pill’ and ‘abortion pills’ are completely different medications and thus work differently.