The morning after pill, also known as the emergency contraceptive pill, EC Pill or emergency pill is a form of emergency contraception that can be taken orally and as a last resort for when other contraception has failed or not been used at all.
The morning after pill may help prevent pregnancy if you've recently had unprotected sex or you've experienced a problem with your normal contraceptive (e.g. due to sickness; a missed contraceptive pill; broken condom).
In these cases the morning after pill can be useful however you must take it as soon as possible after sexual intercourse — the earlier you take it the more effective it will be.
Please note, if you have further unprotected sexual intercourse after taking the morning after pill, you'll again be at risk of pregnancy — the morning after pill is not a substitute for regular forms of ongoing birth control / contraceptive measures.
Please also note that the morning after pill will not stop you catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs)!
There are two types of morning after pill: Levonelle and ellaOne.
Both types work by delaying or preventing ovulation (the release of an egg for potential fertlisation) but there are differences in how each is used.
Of the two types, it's thought that ellaOne is more effective.
Levonelle contains a chemical called levonorgestrel which is a man-made version of preogesterone. Progesterone is made naturally by the body and is involved in ovulation and in getting the uterus ready to take a fertilised egg.
When to take Levonelle — Levonelle must be taken during the three days (72 hours) following unprotected sexual intercourse but is most effective if you take it within 12 hours of having unprotected sex.
The main ingredient in ellaOne is a chemical called ulipristal acetate which prevents / delays the release of an egg.
When to take ellaOne — ellaOne must be taken during the five days (120 hours) following unprotected sexual intercourse.
Taking the morning after pill isn't the same as having, and doesn't cause, an abortion
There are not thought to be any serious morning after pill side-effects however you may experience one or more of the following which are quite common:
Additionally, you may experience some of the following however they're less common:
A 2010 study showed that of 1,696 women taking the morning after pill within 72 hours of having had unprotected sexual intercourse, 37 became pregnant whilst 1,659 did not. Study results also noted that of 203 women taking the morning after pill within 72–120 hours of having had unprotected sexual intercourse, 3 became pregnant.
The study can't be considered conclusive though as it's hard to know how many women would've become pregnant had they not taken the morning after pill at all.
There are more details available on the NHS website via the links at the bottom of this page.
If you need to take the morning after pill in the UK you can get Levonelle free of charge from the following places:
If you have a prescription from a GP you can get ellaOne from a pharmacy free of charge.
If you don't have a prescription ellaOne can be bought from some pharmacies.
If you're buying over the counter, Levonelle will cost around £25 and ellaOne will cost around £35.
There are a number of online pharmacies now providing the morning after pill. Delivery options vary with some offering: same-day delivery for selected post-codes; next-day delivery; and and also “click & collect”.
Each online pharmacy will require you to fill out a straight forward online questionairre before you can submit your order. A qualified doctor at each online pharmacy will then check the information you submitted and where required, if everything's acceptable, will issue your prescription as part of the order.
Some online pharmacies will charge for issuing a prescription so check the website details carefully .
Please note that the information regarding the online pharmacies above was correct to the best of our knowledge, according to the websites consulted at the time of writing. Pregnancy Choices Directory bears no responsibility for the services provided by online pharmacies. Please ensure you read the label when taking medicines — prescription or otherwise.
Online pharmacies and doctors are regulated by bodies such as: General Pharmaceutical Council; General Medical Council; Care Quality Commission; and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Online pharmacies will often provide links to details of themselves held by these agencies.
Watch a short video of Dr Hilary Jones explaining about the Morning After Pill .
Free services are available — use these links to find confidential help: