Despite your best efforts to be prepared when it comes to birth control, sometimes things might not go to plan. To prevent unplanned pregnancy, the morning after pill can be taken after unprotected sex, or if your contraception has failed.

The medicine comes in the form of a single tablet, taken orally, and it can be obtained from most GPs, family planning clinics or online clinics such as However, before you use the emergency contraceptive pill, here are five important considerations to bear in mind.

1. Its effectiveness decreases over time

Despite its name, the morning after pill can be used within three to five days of unprotected intercourse and still be effective. However, it is best to take these pills as soon as possible. There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills: Levonelle 15000 and ellaOne. Levonelle can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, but is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours. EllaOne can be effective for up to five days after unprotected sex, but is also best taken as soon as possible.

When taken properly, and within the correct timeframe, both these pills can be effective at averting unwanted pregnancy. However, it is believed that ellaOne might be slightly more effective, especially when taken duing the first 24 hours.


2. Certain factors can reduce its effectiveness

If you vomit within two hours of taking Levonelle, or three hours of taking ellaOne, they may lose their effectiveness as it’s likely that they have not been properly absorbed into your body. If this happens, you will need to take another pill as soon as possible or consult a healthcare professional for an alternative method, such as the intrauterine device (IUD).

3. It cannot replace normal contraception

It’s important to note that the morning after pill is meant for one-off use and should not be relied upon as a long-term method of contraception. Although Levonelle can be taken more than once during the same menstrual cycle, it should not be used as a substitute for ongoing regular contraception. It’s also worth bearing in mind that neither Levonelle nor ellaOne protects you from sexually transmitted infections.

4. There are possible side effects

While both types of pill are safe to use, it’s a good idea to make yourself aware of the potential side effects. Some uncommon, mild side effects include nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, vomiting and stomach pain. You may also find that your period is later or earlier than usual.

There are currently no health conditions that prevent you from taking Levonelle. However, you should not take ellaOne if you have have severe asthma or you have a family history of problems with lactose metabolism. It’s also worth noting that if there has been more than one instance of unprotected sex in the same cycle and there may be a chance that you are pregnant, you should avoid taking ellaOne.

5. There is still a risk of pregnancy

There is still small risk of pregnancy after taking the morning after pill, particularly if it is taken too late. If your period is more than five days late or is lighter or heavier than usual, you should take a pregnancy test.

If you are taking Levonelle or ellaOne because you have missed your contraceptive pill, be aware that it may diminish the effectiveness of your normal contraception. If this is the case, you should restart your regular contraception as usual and also use a condom during sex. For further advice, check the information leaflet that comes with your birth control pill.

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