Everything You Need To Know About The Emergency Contraceptive Pill
Emergency contraceptive pills (EC), also known as the ‘the morning after pill’ are contraceptive pills that can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the contraception you have used has failed.
You need to take the emergency contraceptive pill within 3 or 5 days of unprotected sex for it to be effective, depending on which pill you choose. The sooner you take the emergency contraceptive pill, the more effective it is likely to be. We offer four different emergency contraceptive pills via our HANX Fix: Pill service, and would recommend EllaOne, as this is the most effective and can be taken with the longest window (5 days rather than the 3 days offered by the other pills).
Your emergency contraceptive pill will require a prescription, so we can ensure you’re getting the correct pill for your needs and medical history. To buy your pill here at HANX, simply select a pill you would like to purchase, add to your bag, and answer the questionnaire (confidentially) before checkout. The prescription will be approved by our prescription team, and you can receive your order next day delivery. All outer HANX packaging is discreet so no one will know what is inside if you don’t want them to.
Planning ahead? You can purchase the morning after pill for future use. Game changer, we know. Emergency contraceptive pills have a shelf life of up to 3 years and can be stored safely in your bathroom cupboard/bedside table for any future ‘emergency’ times of need. Whether you want to avoid a time pressured dash to the pharmacy, awks questions or moral judgement, we’re here for you.
Important: the morning after pill isn't your only option.
An alternative emergency contraception option is the intrauterine contraceptive device (also called the copper coil). This can be fitted within 10 days after having unprotected sex, are very effective at preventing pregnancy, and can be fitted free of charge by your GP, sexual health clinic or family planning clinic. Swot up on all forms of emergency contraception here.
How do ECs work?
If you’ve had unprotected vaginal sex (hey, it happens) and do not want to fall pregnant, you can take the EC to prevent pregnancy.
What you might not know is that there are actually two types of emergency contraceptive pills, and they act in different ways:
1. Levonorgestrel: this is a progesterone hormone (we have three different varieties available at HANX: Levonorgestrel, Ezinelle and Levonelle one step).
- It must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) after having unprotected sex but is more likely to be successful the sooner you take it.
- It works by delaying ovulation, meaning it delays when an egg is released by the ovaries. This is another point in which understanding your menstrual cycle is important. Typically, in a ‘normal’ cycle, you will ovulate on day 14. This is from counting day 1, which is the first day of your period, and is based on a 28-day cycle.
- If it’s likely you’ve already ovulated, based on your cycle, then the best emergency contraceptive choice would be the intrauterine device (coil).
2. Ulipristal acetate: This pill comes under the name EllaOne.
- It must be taken within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex but is more likely to be successful the sooner you take it.
- It is also a type of hormone, which works by stopping or delaying ovulation. It is also another point in which understanding your menstrual cycle is important. Typically, in a ‘normal’ cycle, you will ovulate on day 14. This is from counting day 1, which is the first day of your period, and is based on a 28-day cycle.
- This type of emergency contraceptive pill is slightly more effective than the Levonorgestrel pills and has a longer window for use. For this reason, it’s HANX’s recommended emergency contraceptive pill.
Key things to be aware of with ECs:
- EC is effective, but not as reliable as regular contraception such as condoms, the COCP or POP. The use is in the name: for emergencies.
- All EC pills are more effective the sooner you take them after having unprotected sex.
- You can order an EC pill for future use, meaning you can hold onto it until you may need it in the future.
- If the EC is taken and does not work, and you become pregnant, there is no evidence to suggest that the pill is harmful to the baby.
- Be sure not to have another episode of unprotected sex again after taking emergency contraception, as you’d be at risk of pregnancy.
- The ECs do not protect against STIs, so be sure to get tested if you’re at risk of an STI.
The Lowdown on Levonorgestrel ECs (Levonorgestrel, Ezinelle and Levonelle one step):
- There is a good chance of preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours (3 days) after having unprotected sex, but the sooner the more likely.
- Roughly 6-26% of women will become pregnant after taking a Levonorgestrel EC. However, this is dependent on when it is taken, both in terms of after unprotected sex and when in the cycle (i.e.- how near ovulation). In comparison, roughly 60-80% of these women would become pregnant if they had unprotected sex without taking a Levonorgestrel EC.
- It is not suitable for all women. You cannot take Levonorgestrel ECs if you have any of the below:
- Past history of ectopic or molar pregnancy.
- Certain medical conditions, such as porphyria and severe digestive diseases.
- Are taking certain medications such as anti-epilepsy drugs, certain antibiotics, and even over-the-counter remedies such as St John’s wort.
If you weigh more than 70 kg or your body mass index (BMI) is more than 26, you may need a double dose of the Levonorgestrel EC. Also, if you are taking certain other medication (such as anti-epilepsy medication) you may need a higher dose.
Understanding Ulipristal acetate EC (EllaOne):
- There is a good chance of preventing pregnancy if taken within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex, but the sooner the more likely.Roughly 1-2% of women will become pregnant after taking a Ulipristal acetate EC. However, this is dependent on when it is taken, both in terms of after unprotected sex and when in the cycle (i.e.- how near ovulation). In comparison, roughly 60-80% of these women would become pregnant if they had unprotected sex without taking a Ulipristal acetate EC.
- It may be less effective if you weigh more than 85kg or your body mass index (BMI) is over 30.
When ordering an EC at HANX, we take your medical history very seriously, and therefore need to know certain aspects in order to safely prescribe your pill.
- The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH): Standards and Clinical guidance.
- National Health Service (NHS): Contraception Guide.
- National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE): Hormonal Contraceptives