Your 101 guide to emergency contraception


No matter how careful you are, even if you always use a condom or are usually really, really good at remembering to take your regular contraceptive pill every day, mistakes and accidents can still happen. From when you can use it to where you get it we answer your questions about emergency contraception

What is emergency contraception?

If you’ve had unprotected sex or your contraception has let you down, emergency contraception can help to stop you falling pregnant. There are two types available:

  • Oral emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning after pill)
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) (also known as the coil)


How does the oral emergency contraceptive pill work?

You probably know this better as the morning after pill, which gets its name because it’s best to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

There are two types: containing either ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) or levonorgestrel.

They both work by postponing or preventing ovulation so that no egg is released. This means that any sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes will be unable to hook up with an egg and fertilise it.


What’s an intrauterine device (IUD) and how does it work?

The IUD (aka the coil) is a small, T-shaped device made from plastic and copper, which is inserted into the uterus by a trained specialist. Many people also know it as the coil. It works by preventing the egg from implanting in the womb or being fertilised and can also be used as an ongoing method of contraception.


How soon do you need to use emergency contraception?

The morning after pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Pills containing ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) must be taken within five days of unprotected sex, and pills containing levonorgestrel should be taken within three days of unprotected sex. The IUD can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex.


Where can I get emergency contraception?

You can get the morning after pill from pharmacies without a prescription, so no need to wait for an appointment with your GP. Either visit your local pharmacy or you can order it in advance online so that it’s ready to pick up when you arrive. Find out more about buying online here.

You also have the option to get the morning after pill from your GP, Family Planning Clinic, walk-in centre, or out of hours services.

The IUD needs to be fitted by a specially trained healthcare professional, so you’ll need to contact your GP or family planning service to arrange an appointment.


Does emergency contraception have any side effects?

The morning after pill is generally well tolerated but can sometimes lead to a few side effects like tummy ache, headache, feeling sick and irregular blood spotting outside your period.

It’s rare to have issues after fitting an IUD but some people can experience pain, infection, damage to the womb or the IUD itself. If you decide to use it as a long-term contraception then you may experience longer, heavier or more painful periods.


Can you get the morning after pill for future use?

The morning after pill can be bought in advance if you’re going on holiday or if you’re worried that your usual method of contraception isn’t working effectively.

Click here to find out how you can order ellaOne from store or have it delivered.


Is it possible to use it as a regular form of contraception?

The morning after pill is just intended for use if your usual contraception hasn’t worked for some reason or you’ve had unprotected sex. The IUD is a long-term method of contraception. Chat to a health professional to work out what is the best type of regular contraception for you.


How will I know if it’s worked?

The morning after pill has been found to be highly effective if taken as soon as possible, but it can cause your usual period to be delayed leading to some people worrying they may have fallen pregnant. If your period is more than 7 days late after taking ellaOne, or more than 5 days late after taking levonorgestrel, or if your period is unusual in anyway take a pregnancy test to be sure or visit your GP.

With the IUD, as long as you had it inserted in good time, there shouldn’t be an issue, but again if you haven’t had a period in three weeks take a pregnancy test to be certain.

For more blogs and information on the morning after pill visit

ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate. Always read the label.

*If you require emergency contraception/the morning after pill after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, bear in mind that it is more effective the sooner it is taken. For this reason, it is important that you choose a service that will ensure you can get emergency contraception as quickly as possible.


10 things more embarrassing than asking for the morning after pill


57% of women surveyed told us that embarrassment was the main reason why they didn’t feel comfortable talking to a healthcare professional when asking for the morning after pill.

Here at ellaOne UK we want to kick the stigma and empower women to feel confident about the choices they make – starting with a list of things that are way more cringe than standing in the pharmacy asking for emergency contraception.

  1. Being caught having sex by your parents – nobody really wants to even discuss their love life with their parents, so when they walk in on you committing the act of love, bare bums and all, it’s time that the ground opened and swallowed you up.
  1. Leaking on your period at work – sometimes it can’t be helped, but nonetheless it’s far from ideal when you accidentally brand your office chair AND your cream skirt.
  1. Farting yourself awake in front of your partner – we went red just writing that sentence. We have all been there!
  1. Bending down to pick something up and hearing the rip of your jeans…the one day you wore a thong – sometimes the booty just can’t be contained and in situations like this one it’s best to dust yourself off, embrace your inner Beyoncé and find the nearest clothes shop.
  1. Accidentally sending a message meant for your crush to your family chat – because your family really want to know what you and your man are going to get up to later.
  1. When you open your bag and your tampon stash falls out – it happens to the best of us. Sometimes tampons just need to be set free to shower themselves across the floor of the most inconvenient places.
  1. Getting publicly stood up – the rise of dating sites has made cat fishing and being stood up a normal occurrence, but it doesn’t mean that it becomes any less embarrassing, not to mention the complete waste of make up!
  1. Your parents grilling your new boyfriend about their life – parents ask questions that normal people would never think of, so let’s hope your new beau doesn’t crack under the pressure.
  1. Having an accidental nip slip in a room full of people – it happens to the best of us, even when we’re taped in Kim Kardashian style.
  1. Mistaking a stranger for your friend and getting a little too familiar with them –we’re advocates of spreading love throughout the world, but some people aren’t so keen on strangers enthusiastically hugging them, mistaking them for a mate.


Read more about ellaOne and other emergency contraceptives available to you

ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate, always read the label.


Common myths about the morning after pill

ellaone morning after pill

Emergency contraception or the morning after pill (MAP), whatever you call it, most women know it’s out there. But do you know how it works, how effective it is and how you can get hold of it? There are lots of misconceptions and outright confusion, so we’ve debunked the 10 most common myths

  1. There’s only one type of morning after pill

There are in fact two types of morning after pill available in the UK. The first contains ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) and the second contains levonorgestrel. Speak to a healthcare professional about the different types of morning after pill and their difference in effectiveness to ensure you can make an informed decision based on what’s most suitable for you.

  1. It’s difficult to get hold of

ellaOne is available in pharmacies across the UK, and there’s no need for a prescription, so you don’t have to take time out of your day to make a doctor’s appointment. It’s also possible to order online through Click & Collect, so it’s ready for you when you arrive at the pharmacy. Find a selection of reputable online pharmacies offering this service here*

  1. It can be used as a regular form of contraception

There isn’t a restriction on how often you can take the morning after pill, but it is not a regular form of contraception. It is only intended for occasional use after unprotected sex or if your contraception has failed, for example if the condom split or you have been sick after taking your usual hormonal contraception. There are 15 types of contraception available in the UK. Chat to your GP or healthcare professional to find out which type is best for you.

  1. The morning after pill ends pregnancy

It doesn’t terminate a pregnancy or cause an abortion. Morning after pills, like ellaOne, can help prevent a pregnancy from happening by delaying the release of a woman’ eggs (ovulation). This means that by the time an egg is released the sperm inside you is no longer able to make you pregnant.

  1. You’ll feel rubbish after you take it

Like all medicines the morning after pill can cause side effects for some people, but it’s generally well tolerated and many people won’t experience any side effects. The most common ones are headache, feeling sick, stomach pain and painful period cramps. Speak to a healthcare professional for more advice if you’re concerned by any side effects.

  1. It can affect long-term fertility

The morning after pill has been used for many years by millions of women without any significant long-term effects on fertility. In fact, research actually shows women are likely to quickly become fertile again after taking it, so you should use a barrier method of contraception, like a condom until your next period, even if you use a regular contraceptive pill.

  1. It only works the morning after

Although it’s best to take ellaOne as soon as possible after unprotected sex or a contraception failure, it is the only morning after pill that can prevent pregnancy up to five days afterwards.

  1. Asking a pharmacist for the morning after pill is embarrassing and they will want to know all the details

Pharmacists and their teams are specially trained to speak to women who want the morning after pill, and they do it all the time. If you’re worried about people overhearing your business, simply ask for ellaOne.

  1. It causes miscarriage if you’re already pregnant

ellaOne is an emergency contraceptive pill and not an abortion pill so will not interrupt an existing pregnancy. It acts to stop or delay ovulation to prevent the conception taking place in the first place.

  1. It doesn’t work in women who are overweight

ellaOne remains an effective morning after pill choice regardless of weight.

*Please note: If you require emergency contraception after unprotected sex, bear in mind that it is more effective the sooner it is taken. For this reason it is important that you choose a service that will ensure you can get emergency contraception as quickly as possible.

ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate. Take one tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex or contraceptive mishap. Always read the label.


Five things to never tell your friends about your relationship


How much information is ‘too much information’?

Relationships go through all kinds of trials and tribulations, peaks and pits, and steady evolution’s. From butterflies in your stomach to pure anxiety over the unknown, if you haven’t felt the sensation of a roller-coaster while in a relationship then you are a sacred minority.

Ultimately, though, it’s a two person ride and privacy is imperative. While we all enjoy a juicy bit of gossip over brunch or drinks, our friends may not always want the full download on our relationship and we shouldn’t always want to give it either. Sometimes ‘too much information’ means exactly that.

Here are the top five things about your relationship that you shouldn’t share with friends;

  1. When you’re going through a sex slump

Going through a sex slump when in a relationship is totally normal; it’s nothing to worry about. Naturally, though, we overthink the situation and before you know it you’re detailing your dry season to your closest friends. But they’re not the person you want to have sex with. If your sex life has slowed down with your partner then speak to them about it, work through it and make time to be intimate together.

  1. Bedroom kink

What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom. Your partner’s sexual fantasies were shared with you in the comfort of your relationship zone, which your friends weren’t invited to. Don’t divulge your partner’s dirty secrets to your besties; you don’t know how it could affect their view of him.

  1. Money issues

Only you can make your friends respect your partner, and if you’re bad-mouthing him behind his back you’re setting him up for failure. Money is the root of many arguments; whether you have too much or not enough. Keep your financial arrangements, like who pays more rent, who bought last week’s groceries or if you’ve had to lend him money to yourself.

  1. Playing away from home

Whether it’s an emotional or a physical affair, any acts that caused you or your partner to stray outside the confines of your relationship should be kept schtum. Friends have opinions and you may not want to hear them if you’re feeling fragile about the situation.  Sharing the details with your mates instead of your partner will make coming back from the affair even harder. Similarly, if you think that your partner is cheating then ask them, don’t use your friends as a soundboard for advice. Speculation is the enemy of calm.

  1. Details about his bits

It’s common to dish the details on your partner’s body when you first start dating them, men do it too and the conversations often get rowdy. But if you can see yourself with this person long-term, do you really want your mates to know what size he is or which direction it bends? If it’s something that could potentially embarrass him, leave it out.

8 awkward questions you were afraid to ask about…. Periods

girl on bed

  1. Why is the blood a brownish colour at the start of a period?

A brownish colour usually indicates that it’s just older blood coming out, but it’s nothing to worry about. Most likely it’s some of the uterus lining left over from your last period, or you might just shed the lining at a slower rate so the blood turns brown before you see it on your tampon.

  1. Why does it sometimes smell a bit fishy downstairs during a period?

The blood itself doesn’t usually smell, but when it mixes with bacteria and sweat you might start to notice an unwelcome aroma. Changing your tampon or sanitary pad frequently to stop blood building up will really help, as will regular showers. But don’t be tempted to use harsh soaps, gently does it when you’re dealing with your delicate lady bits.

  1. Do orgasms really help period pain?

The great news is they do! Monthly cramps are caused by the uterus contracting to shed the endometrial lining. So those involuntary muscle spasms you feel in your body when things reach fever pitch, can help the uterus shed its lining more effectively and relieve the cramping. And if that wasn’t enough your body produces a hormone called oxytocin during sex, which acts like a natural pain reliever. Result!

  1. Are heavy periods something to worry about?

Some women just experience heavier periods which is usual for them, but if things suddenly change and your period gets heavier and stops you doing things, then speak to your GP about it. They will check there is nothing else going on such as fibroids and may be able to offer a change to your regular contraceptive pill to reduce the monthly bleed.

  1. Are large blood clots during a period something to worry about?

It’s not uncommon to experience blobs of blood up to the size of a cherry, particularly during the heavier days of your period. This is just a sign that your uterus lining is shedding particularly quickly. If however you start to get bigger blobs, or you are worried then speak to your GP about it. They will probably want to check for anaemia if you’re losing quite a bit of blood.

  1. Can you get pregnant during a period?

Irregular periods mean that you can experience bleeding at different times in your cycle, including while you’re ovulating, which means you can still get pregnant. What’s more, because sperm can live for up to five days inside the female reproductive tract, the window of conception opportunity gets even bigger. If you’ve had unprotected sex during your period or your usual form of contraception has failed and you don’t want to fall pregnant, you might want to consider using an emergency contraceptive. ellaOne is a morning after pill which contains ulipristal acetate – always read the label.


  1. Why do toilet habits change during a period?

During your period, the body produces hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which is the sign to the uterus to start contracting and shed the lining. These same prostaglandins send a similar message to your bowels, which is why you can feel the need to go urgently and more frequently, sometimes with looser poo. If there are less prostaglandins, then that can cause constipation.

  1. Are there any alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads?

If you want to be more environmentally friendly and save money you can try reusable pads. Just throw them in the washing machine after every wear and they are ready to use again. You can also try a menstrual cup. These are little devices that sit inside your vagina to catch blood. You then remove the cup and rinse it out before replacing it. Alternatively, you can try wearable period pants – knickers which are designed to absorb blood without the need for a separate pad. The pants are then just washed as normal and used again.

Read about your choices here.


Women who kick ass!

We reckon it’s time to celebrate some of our most inspiring female role models

Inspiring women


J.K. Rowling, 51

Not only did she write the hugely successful Harry Potter series that turned into a global bestseller and mega film franchise, but she did it while she was a struggling single mum. Impressive enough, but she is also known her campaigning for the rights of people across the world and in particular women – encouraging young girls to aspire for more and be proud of their intelligence. Oh, and she’s also pretty funny if you’ve ever seen her Twitter feed. We don’t fancy anyone’s chances of outwitting her…


Laura Trott, 24

Laura is now Britain’s most successful female athlete having won four gold Olympic cycling medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016. That she’s achieved this incredible feat as a result of taking up cycling to overcome childhood asthma and being born prematurely with a collapsed lung makes us like her even more. Laura is full of inspiring words for women who don’t think they can be sporty but at the same time she doesn’t see being an ace sportswoman as incompatible with wearing dresses and make-up. “I’m a real girly girl, so the minute I’m not on the bike I make a real effort, even if I’m not going out. All made up, hair done.


Michelle Obama, 53

As well as making inspiring speeches and looking effortlessly stylish the whole time, the former US First Lady has made it her mission to use her position to empower young women and help them understand the importance of an education. She also has a sense of humour doing press-ups with Ellen de Generes and singing with Missy Elliot and James Corden on Carpool Karaoke. No wonder there have been calls for her to stand as the next president of the USA!


Heather Keating, 25

After being diagnosed with cervical cancer, Heather’s story went viral on social media. Aged 24 years old she was too young to be offered a smear test (free to all women between the ages of 25 and 60) so her pre-cancerous cell changes were never picked up and her illness went undetected. But once she was diagnosed with the cancer, she shared her symptoms online to help others detect the signs early. By documenting her journey, Heather has helped to actually save lives.


Simone Biles, 20

The American artistic gymnast stunned the 2016 Rio Olympics by winning five gold medals – the first female gymnast to ever do that. An incredible achievement by anyone’s standards, but the fact that Simone did this despite her difficult upbringing is even more impressive. As a child, her mum had an alcohol and drug problem so she spent time in foster homes before being adopted by her grandparents. Plus unlike other gymnastic stars she never left home to practise with an exclusive, elite coach, but just rose to amazing heights at her local gym.


Nimko Ali, 33

Somalian-born Nimko, who spent much of her childhood in Manchester, has campaigned tirelessly to bring to an end FGM (female genital mutilation). She is a director and co-founder of the not for profit organisation Daughters of Eve which helps raise awareness and provide education about FGM to young women and girls. No wonder this feisty lady has won the respect of thousands of men and women across the globe.


Amy Schumer, 35

Famous for telling it like it is, comedian Amy doesn’t care if others don’t like her outspoken comments, what she does or how she looks. Trolls who try to silence her don’t stand a chance. Sassy, smart and clever – Amy gives her unique take on tough subjects like body shaming and gun violence – areas where many others fear to tread. Good on her!


Laura Kuenssberg, 40

During Brexit we began to think that the BBC Political correspondent never slept as she did epic shifts to report on the biggest story of 2016 and the political fallout that followed. So far this year, she has also been the one reporter to make Donald Trump squirm when she called him out on some of his more controversial policies at a joint press conference with Theresa May. Fearless.


None of the women featured in this article are in any way affiliated with HRA or ellaOne.