If you find yourself in a situation where you need a the emergency contraceptive pill, you might be wondering what your options are and what timescales you have to work with. In this article we outline what emergency contraception you have available and which one is best for you to use; we also tell you about the timescales you have and any side effects you might experience.

What is the Emergency Pill?

There are two types of emergency pill to choose from, Levonelle and ellaOne. Levonelle contains a synthetic progesterone, which is a hormone that is produced naturally in the ovaries. This hormone can stop or delay the release of an egg. It should be taken ideally within 12 hours and no later than three days of unprotected sex to be effective.

The ellaOne contraceptive pill also works by stopping or preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries, but unlike Levonelle it uses ulipristal acetate to stop progesterone from working normally. EllaOne can be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex to reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Emergency Contraception Facts

If you have unprotected sex and don’t want pregnancy you can use types of emergency contraception such as the Levonelle pill or the ellaOne pill. Levonelle can be taken up to three days after sex while, ellaOne is up to five days.

Both the levonelle and ellaOne Morning After Pills are effective following unprotected sex, however, they do not continue to protect you after taking them. If you have unprotected sex after taking the Morning After Pill you may still become pregnant.

The emergency Morning After Pill is also not intended to be used as a regular form of contraception. For this you will need to consult with your medical practitioner to decide which regular pill option suits you best.

Are There any Side Effects?

The contraceptive pill has been used for decades by women to protect against pregnancy. There are no known long term side effects of using it. However, in the short term you may experience headaches, tummy aches, and changes to your next period.

While birth control has some minor negative side effects such as spotting, nausea and headaches, there are also some ways it can affect your system positively. Birth control can help with irregular periods, painful periods and heavy periods, it can also reduce acne and premenstrual syndrome.

Which Should I use?

There are some notable differences between the two contraceptive pills. Following unprotected sexual intercourse the Levonelle pill can be taken up to 72 hours after, and remain effective.

However, it’s effectiveness diminishes and taking it within 24 hours is recommended. Within 24 hours it is 95% effective. Between 24-48 hours it is 85% effective, and up to 72 hours, it is still 58% effective. These medications should not be used as a regular method of contraception however.

Conversely, the ellaOne pill can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse and remains effective; it is still recommended to take the ellaOne pill within 24 hours but it maintains an effectiveness rate of 95%. The ellaOne pill is more expensive but it’s usually the better option depending on the situation.

Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored Mar 22, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed Apr 01, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm

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