Homemade morning after pill? No thanks!

We love that there are so many different ways to get your hands on the various types of emergency contraception in the UK. Whether you do so via appointment or prescription, or prefer to buy it online and have it delivered to your home, generally we consider access to emergency contraception in the UK to be pretty good. 

For whatever reason, though, you might have wondered whether or not you can make your own morning after pill at home. The answer is a resounding ‘no’, and here’s why

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception refers to a specific type of contraception that you take to help prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. There are varying types, and each works in a different way and can be taken at different times after unprotected sex.

The copper intrauterine device (or copper IUD) is a non-hormonal contraceptive that can be used as emergency contraception if inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. To have this fitted, you need to book an appointment with a GP, nurse or sexual health specialist. This IUD works by releasing copper into the womb which alters the cervical mucus and makes it difficult for any sperm to survive or a fertilised egg to implant. Once inserted, the IUD can be effective for 5-10 years.

Alternatively, there are emergency hormonal contraceptive pills that you can take to help prevent pregnancy. Some emergency contraceptive pills (also known as morning after pills) contain ulipristal acetate (which is the active ingredient in ellaOne®) and others contain levonorgestrel. They work in a similar way – by delaying ovulation so that no egg is released and there is nothing for any sperm to potentially fertilise – but morning after pills containing ulipristal acetate are 2.5 times more effective than morning after pills containing levonorgestrel when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

Levonorgestrel can be effective when taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, and ellaOne® can be effective up to 120 hours (5 days) afterwards.You can compare emergency contraceptive methods here.

What else works as a morning after pill?

It’s important to be very clear on this: only licensed emergency contraceptive pills (or the IUD) can be used as emergency contraception. These methods have gone through trials and regulatory boards to ensure their standards. 

You might have read about DIY or homemade emergency contraceptives, but we’d strongly advise you to steer clear of these. You might have heard that wild carrot seeds, spearmint, dried apricots and even cleaning products among other things might work when trying to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Some websites might even suggest brewing your own special type of tea to bring on your period and prevent ovulation. These might contain things like rutin and ginger root. 

Again, none of these have been proven to have any of the desired effects and may well leave you injured or in danger. If you’ve experienced contraceptive failure or just got caught in the moment during unprotected sex, the best way to ensure you’re protected from unplanned pregnancies is either of the morning after pills or the copper IUD, as mentioned above.

What can I use as a morning after pill at home?

You can take either of the emergency contraceptive pills from the comfort of your own home, but it’s important to remember that these are more effective the sooner you use them after the instance of unprotected sex and they will not be effective if you have already ovulated.  If you’d rather not go to a pharmacy, you can order ellaOne® online via ellaOne Direct. You can also use click and collect to order a morning after pill online and pick it up at a pharmacy.

Can I take the contraceptive pill in place of the morning after pill?

Some people might consider taking multiple contraceptive pills instead of an emergency contraceptive pill, in the hopes that the similar hormonal ingredients might have the same effect. This is not a reliable source of emergency contraception. It would be really hard to monitor the levels of hormones you are ingesting by taking multiple contraceptive pills, and again this could cause damage or further problems to your body and not have the desired effect.

How can I access the morning after pill?

We know that it can be difficult to access the morning after pill, especially if you are struggling with money.  You can buy ellaOne® online or over the pharmacy counter, which is great for accessibility and being able to access it quickly. With ellaOne Direct orders, we offer free, discreet, next day delivery too.

But this might not be feasible for everyone. If you have time, you can book an appointment with your GP or nurse to access the morning after pill on prescription, or even book an appointment to have the copper IUD fitted. Alternatively, it’s worth checking in with your local sexual health clinic which may offer free contraceptive services. You might be able to book an appointment quickly, and they often offer walk-in sessions where you may be able to access the morning after pill.

What are the side effects of the morning after pill?

Like all medication, the morning after pill may carry some side effects, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience them! Common side effects of the ellaOne® pill are: nausea, abdominal (stomach) pain or discomfort, vomiting,  painful periods, pelvic pain, breast tenderness, headache, dizziness, mood swings, muscle pain, back pain, and tiredness. If you experience vomiting or diarrhoea within three hours of taking ellaOne®, you need to contact a healthcare professional as you may need another dose.

We know that it can feel daunting to go to a pharmacy and talk about your sex life with a stranger, and that buying emergency contraception can be difficult when you’re on a budget. It’s really important that you understand that unlicensed and untested methods at the very best are not going to be able to prevent pregnancy and at worst could cause serious harm to your body. If you don’t want to go to a pharmacy, consider buying emergency contraception online. If money is an issue, try going to a local sexual health clinic or visit your GP. You have options in how you access emergency contraception. 

Above all, we just want you to be safe and make decisions that you feel good about. Taking emergency contraception is nothing to be ashamed of – after all, we’re only human! Accidents can happen and everyone makes mistakes sometimes. 

For further information on emergency contraception, why ellaOne is the most effective morning after pill and further morning after pill myths, check out ellaOne.co.uk.

If you have taken the morning after pill and would like to share your experience to contribute to our work in breaking the stigma around emergency contraception, you can submit your story here:

ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sexual intercourse or contraceptive failure.

*Verify at ellaone.co.uk/verify