How Does ellaOne Work?

The Most Effective Morning After Pill*
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Ask Ella
Ask Ella

How exactly does ellaOne work?

Can it cause a mini abortion? Does it just zap all the sperm away like Cilit Bang (bang and the sperm are GONE)? Does it do something to your uterus to make it less inhabitable than the surface of the Sun?

Nope, nope and definitely not.

The most simple explanation is that ellaOne can help prevent ovulation (a.k.a egg release), meaning that the sperm have no egg to fertilise and so no pregnancy takes place. Read more about how ovulation works.

There’s no shame in not knowing how oral emergency contraception works. Most of us never learned about the morning after pill at school, and the first time you learn about it might be because you’re considering using it.

We’ve asked Deborah Evans, pharmacist and passionate sexual health advocate, to help us explain how ellaOne works.

How Does ellaOne Work?

So, for whatever reason, contraception wasn’t used – or something went wrong – and unprotected sex took place. It happens, it’s what you do next that counts. Using ellaOne can reduce your chances of getting pregnant to just 9 in 1000*.

When your partner ejaculates into your vagina (or sperm comes into contact with the vagina during other sexual activities) the sperm start doing what sperm do best: looking for an egg. They will swim from the vagina, through the cervix, all the way to the fallopian tubes where they wait for an egg to be released as a result of ovulation.

Sperm can survive in the reproductive system for up to five days, ellaOne can work by preventing ovulation until all the sperm have died. This means that there’s no egg to fertilise so no pregnancy can take place.

Even though you use oral emergency contraception after unprotected sex, it’s still a preventative method. The morning after pill can not terminate a pregnancy and there is no evidence to suggest it can interrupt an existing pregnancy. .

Deborah says: “Unfortunately, if you have recently ovulated, then the morning after pill won’t be effective. However, ovulation can be difficult to pinpoint and can vary from month to month.”

If this is your situation you should speak to a healthcare professional: ovulation can be difficult to pinpoint and there may still be a chance that emergency contraception could be effective.

What is ellaOne?

Most simply: ellaOne is the most effective* morning after pill.

“Ulipristal acetate is the active ingredient in ellaOne. It modifies the hormone which causes ovulation and so either delays or inhibits an egg release,” Deborah explains.

When can I take ellaOne?

If you’ve had unprotected sex and want to avoid unplanned pregnancy, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. It’s time to get clued up about emergency contraception: how to use it and where to get it.

You should use ellaOne as soon as possible after unprotected sex for it to be most effective. This is to avoid the chances of you ovulating while there are sperm in your reproductive system. It can be effective up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, but it will be most effective when taken as soon as possible.

Deborah says: “ellaOne can be taken for up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. If unprotected sex occurs again in the same cycle then the first dose of ellaOne will not be effective, and so should be repeated. A healthcare professional can advise in individual circumstances.”

Despite the nickname ‘morning after pill’, you can use ellaOne at any time of day or night. You might even think about keeping a spare packet in your medicine box, first aid kit or even your make-up bag – just so that if you end up having unprotected sex you can use it ASAP.

How effective is ellaOne?

There are two types of morning after pill: one contains ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) and another contains levonorgestrel.

“ellaOne® is the most effective morning after pill*,” Deborah says, “it has been shown to be 2.5 times more effective than those containing levonorgestrel at preventing pregnancy when taken within the 24 hours of unprotected sex.”

It’s important to remember that no contraception is completely fail-safe: “no contraception is 100% effective, and the morning after pill is no exception.”

“A pregnancy could occur if ovulation has occurred before ellaOne can work, if the person is taking medicines which could make ellaOne less effective or if ellaOne is not fully absorbed – such as if the person vomits after taking it,” Deborah continues.

If you vomit within 3 hours of taking ellaOne, you will need to take another dose as it will not be effective.

What happens after you take ellaOne?

Some people might be scared by the rumoured side effects associated with the morning after pill, but did you know that 9 out of 10 people report no side effects after using ellaOne?

It’s completely normal to be nervous about using a medicine, but many exaggerated rumours about the morning after pill exist to scare you, not to educate you.

“After you take ellaOne, most people won’t notice anything different, other than they may feel less anxious as they’ve been proactive about possibly preventing pregnancy. Some women may experience mild side effects with the most common being headaches, stomach pain, nausea, mood changes and breast tenderness,” Deborah says.

When will ellaOne not be effective?

Deborah explains: “you will be advised not to use ellaOne if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. Some medicines such as epilepsy medications, some treatments for HIV, liver disease and even herbal remedies containing St. John’s Wort, interact with ellaOne and so a healthcare professional should be consulted as this may have an impact on emergency contraception choice.”

In addition, “women who are breastfeeding should refrain from feeding her baby for seven days after taking ellaOne, expressing and discarding milk in the meantime to stimulate lactation.”


Don’t panic!

If you’ve read this far, but you’re still feeling anxious about using the morning after pill, remember that you aren’t alone. You can read hundreds of morning after stories from our community, that show the diversity of experiences associated with the morning after pill.

Pharmacists help people who choose emergency contraception every single day.

Deborah says: “It is understandable to have questions and concerns about taking a medicine however ellaOne is generally well tolerated and most women take it without any side effects. Please speak to your pharmacist about any worries you might have and we can address these specifically.”

If you don’t fancy a trip to the pharmacy, did you know that you can also order ellaOne online? It will be delivered to your door quickly, and in discreet packaging so no one needs to know what’s inside.

We hope that this guide to ellaOne has helped you to feel prepared and in control of your contraceptive choices. Have you used the morning after pill and want to share your story? Join hundreds of people who are calling time on the stigma around the morning after pill by sharing your story below.

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