There are some health matters that patients would rather share with a stranger than their family doctor and taking the emergency pill often falls into this category.
It’s used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, and some people feel more comfortable seeking treatment from someone they will never see again. So, it’s only natural to wonder if your doctor will be able to tell if you’ve taken the emergency pill.
What is the emergency pill and how does it work?
In the UK, there are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pills (also referred to as the ‘morning after’ pill – so called because it’s usually taken the morning after sex).
ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate which works by interfering with the body’s natural hormone, progesterone. This stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) so it can’t be fertilised by a man’s sperm, but it must be taken within five days (120 hours).
Levonelle contains the synthetic ingredient, levonorgestrel, which mimics the hormone progesterone. This also stops or delays the release of an egg. Levonelle should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex or within three days (72 hours).
If you’re looking for an alternative to the emergency pill, you might benefit from finding out more about an intrauterine device (IUD), also known as ‘the coil’.
Can I get the emergency pill without seeing a doctor?
There are lots of other places you can get the emergency contractive pill without having to see your GP. The morning after pill is available for free from:
- Some pharmacies
- Most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
- Contraception clinics
- GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
- Sexual health clinics
- Brook centres (sexual health advice for young people)
You can also buy ellaOne and Levonelle from pharmacies, including those online.
With a regulated online pharmacy, like Post My Meds, you can expect to receive the same level of care as you would in a high street store, without having to face anyone in person.
If you choose to buy online, you will be asked to complete a short form that asks about your medical history and any other medication you are taking. The morning after pill is not suitable for everyone, and your answers will help determine whether it’s safe for you.
Can a doctor tell if you have taken the emergency pill?
The active ingredients contained in ellaOne and Levonelle are unlikely to show up in a blood test, so your doctor will not be able to tell if you have taken the emergency pill.
However, if you’re seeing your GP for another reason, then it could help your doctor to build up a full picture of your health if they know that you’ve taken the pill. Telling them may be the missing piece of information they need to diagnose your problem.
Everything you tell your doctor is kept confidential unless they think you’re at risk of serious harm, but remember their duty of care is to you – their patient.
When you might need to see a doctor or nurse
There are no serious or long-term side effects to taking the emergency contraceptive pill, but you may experience a mild headache or feel sick. You might also notice changes to your next period – it could be early, on-time or late, and it may be more painful.
If your period is late by seven days, or it’s lighter or shorter than normal, then you could be pregnant. You should make an appointment to see a doctor or nurse, who will guide you through what to do next. If it has been three weeks since you had unprotected sex, they may ask you to take a pregnancy test.
It’s particularly important to seek medical advice if you have a sudden or unusual pain in your lower abdomen, as it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
Restarting your regular contraception safely
The morning after pill won’t protect you from getting pregnant if you have unprotected sex again after you’ve taken it. Though you can take the Levonelle emergency contraception more than once in your menstrual cycle, you shouldn’t rely on it long-term.
When it comes to restarting your regular method of contraception, you might need to make some adjustments. Taking the emergency pill can affect hormonal contraception, which includes:
- Combined pill
- Progestogen-only pill (mini pill)
- Vaginal ring
- Contraceptive patch
As a safeguard against contraceptive failure, we recommend using an additional contraception, such as a condom or cap, for 14 days after taking the emergency pill.
How to buy the emergency contraceptive pill online
You can’t plan for the unknown but you can prepare, so if you’re going on holiday or taking a trip and you know you won’t have access to emergency contraception, then consider buying the emergency pill online before you go.
For your safety, we recommend that you use an online pharmacy registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Look for the GPhC icon on their website and/or the registration number of the pharmacy and their staff.
You can order your medication from Post My Meds in three easy steps:
- View your preferred treatment
- Complete a quick online consultation and select your treatment
- Pay for your order and wait for it to arrive
We understand that your privacy is important to you, which is why we dispatch all our orders in unbranded, generic packaging. The only thing you can expect to see written on there is your name and address.
Taking the emergency pill – the next steps
If you need the emergency pill, don’t let the thought of seeing your doctor put you off. There are lots of other places you can seek help in confidence, and if you can’t face speaking to someone in person, you can buy emergency contraception online.
For it to work you will need to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex, so you’ll need to factor this in when you’re calculating delivery times. If you know you’re likely to be in a situation where you will need it, it may be better to buy it ahead of time.
Though your doctor won’t be able to tell that you’ve taken the emergency contraceptive pill, there are some situations in which you might need to let them know.