The first studies on the effects of oestrogen and progestogen on preventing pregnancy in animals were carried out in the 1920s, primarily on dogs and horses who were mating against the will of their owners.
Clinical trials on humans to test early versions of the morning after pill in the UK started in the 1970s, which were then released and made available in pharmacies in 1984. Early forms of morning after pill were typically taken in two doses a few hours apart, whereas now it’s just one pill that you take ASAP after unprotected sex. The Intrauterine device (IUD, also sometimes called the copper coil) was developed in the late ‘70s.
Early versions of hormonal emergency contraception contained high levels of oestrogen and were taken over 5 days to help prevent unplanned pregnancy following unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. These pills tended to have side effects due in part to their high oestrogen content. Researchers soon decided that emergency contraceptive pills containing progestogen rather than combining oestrogen and progestogen were safer. Levonorgestrel, a hormone-based medication used in some contraceptive pills and emergency contraception, became available to buy in the UK in 2001. Morning after pills containing levonorgestrel are effective for up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex.
Ulipristal acetate, a selective progesterone receptor modulator, has been approved for use as an emergency contraceptive in Europe since 2009 and in the US since 2010. Unlike morning after pills containing levonorgestrel, ulipristal acetate is effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Ulipristal acetate is 2.5x more effective than levonorgestrel when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.*
ellaOne® is a morning after pill available in the U.K which contains the active ingredient ulipristal acetate. It’s the most effective morning after pill* and can be purchased from pharmacies and online via ellaOne Direct.
*Verify at ellaone.co.uk/verify
“Hormonal emergency contraception (EHC or known as the ‘morning after pill’) has been available in the U.K for nearly 40 years,” says Deborah Evans, a pharmacist with over 30 years of experience.*
“The availability of the EHC has been significant to give women and people with uteruses another option. Condoms can break, people may miss their pill and unprotected sex happens. If someone doesn’t want to get pregnant, there are options that can help prevent that from happening, including using them for up to 120 hours after sex. As a woman, mother and pharmacist, I’m delighted this option exists and is available to help give women more autonomy over their reproductive health. When EHC became available from pharmacies it was a landmark in sexual healthcare for women; having walk-in access to this option, and then more recently to the progestogen only pill, without prescription has given women the rightful empowerment of their bodies.”