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.