So, you’ve had unprotected sex? It’s one of those things, even when we think we’re doing everything right sometimes it just happens. Maybe you got carried away in the moment – you might have thought the person you were with had it all covered and they might have been thinking the same about you, turns out nobody had it covered after all. It could be the condom split, or maybe you realised later the condom you were using was out of date or simply not doing its job properly.Perhaps you didn’t realise in time that you’d forgotten to take your regular contraceptive pill, or you’re worried that for some reason it wasn’t doing its job right? For example, if you’ve had an upset stomach.
Rest assured you aren’t the first person this has happened to, and we’re pretty sure you won’t be that last. Now’s the time to get sensible and take precautions. If you’ve had unprotected sex you should get tested for STIs this applies even for girl on girl and boy on boy sex. Not all STIs show symptoms so it’s always worth getting checked out. If you’re a woman and you’ve had unprotected sex with a man then there is always the chance that you are pregnant too. It doesn’t matter where you are in your cycle and using the ‘withdrawal’ method is no guarantee either. However, it’s not too late to do something about it. There are two main kinds of emergency contraception you can use and both work even if you get them a few days after having unprotected sex.
The main types of emergency contraception are:
- An IUD (intrauterine device) which can be inserted up to 5 days after you’ve had unprotected sex and then stays in, so it provides continuous contraception.
- The morning after pill – EllaOne -can be taken up to 5 days after having unprotected sex, or Levonelle – can be taken up to 3 days after having unprotected sex.
Read on for more information about how EllaOne can help, where to buy and what you need to know.
What is EllaOne?
EllaOne is commonly referred to as the morning after pill. It’s a medicine you take to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after you’ve had unprotected sex or if your usual method of contraception has failed (e.g. split condom, forgot to take your regular pill etc.) EllaOne is an effective treatment to prevent you from getting pregnant, even when you are about to ovulate. In fact, it can be taken at any time during your menstrual cycle. EllaOne contains the active ingredient ulipristal acetate. EllaOne works by delaying ovulation. The active ingredient prevents the production of the progesterone hormone which is needed for ovulation to occur. It delays ovulation for long enough for the sperm that’s inside you to die. Your eggs are only released once the sperm has died off so you cannot become pregnant. The eggs are able to be fertilised. EllaOne cannot halt a pregnancy it can only prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
Clinical trials have shown that EllaOne is the most effective Morning After pill with only 9 women falling pregnant after taking it within 24 hours compared to 23 with other drugs.
When is EllaOne used?
The sooner you take EllaOne after having unprotected sex or a contraception fail the better. It becomes less effective the longer you leave it, but it still works up to 5 days (120 hours) after you’ve had unprotected sex. It’s important to get EllaOne as soon as you can to ensure that it is as effective as possible. EllaOne should not be taken as a regular method of contraception. If you are already pregnant it will not put a halt to your pregnancy. EllaOne only prevents pregnancy, it cannot protect you from STI’s so it is worth getting checked if you’ve had unprotected sex. You can purchase EllaOne to use at a later date if you think you might need it, for example, you are going on holiday or you rely solely on condoms for contraception. EllaOne will not affect your future fertility.
How do you use EllaOne?
Always follow the instructions given to you by a doctor or pharmacist when it comes to taking any medication if there is anything you are unsure about check with them. EllaOne is a one-time treatment. It is a tablet that is taken orally. You can take it at any time of day before, during or after a meal. It can be taken at any time in your menstrual cycle.
The important thing to remember is to take it as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. The morning after pill is 95% effective when taken within the first 24 hours, 85% effective if taken between 24 and 48 hours after unprotected sex and 58% effective 48-72 hours after. The maximum time delay you can take EllaOne is up to 5 days after unprotected sex, this is because sperm can survive in your body for up to five days.
What dosages are there?
Each EllaOne tablet contains 30mg of ulipristal acetate. You take it as a single dose with or without food any time up to 5 days after having unprotected sex or a contraceptive fail. The sooner you take it the better. You can only take EllaOne once during your menstrual cycle, it should not be used as a regular contraceptive. If you take more EllaOne than you should, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice, although this shouldn’t cause any harm.
If you are sick within three hours of taking EllaOne, seek medical assistance as you may need to take a second dose because the original dose may not have had time to reach your system. You could also look at an alternative solution (IUD). If you have unprotected sex after taking EllaOne it will not protect you from becoming pregnant so make sure you use a condom.
What are the side effects of EllaOne?
As with all medication, EllaOne can cause some side effects although not everyone will get them. There are no long-term side effects with taking EllaOne. Possible common side effects include:
- changes in your menstrual cycle, you could get your period earlier or later or it may be more painful than usual;
- stomach ache;
- nausea or vomiting – if you are sick within 3 hours of taking EllaOne you will need to seek medical help as the dose may not be effective so you will need to take a second dose or opt for alternative treatment;
- mood swings;
- tender breasts.
Some of these symptoms are similar to pregnancy symptoms (nausea, vomiting, tender breasts) if you think you may be pregnant do a pregnancy test straight away. If the symptoms do not go away after a few days you should speak to a medical professional, particularly in the following cases:
- your period is shorter and lighter than usual;
- your period is more than 7 days late;
- you have sudden pain in your lower abdomen – this could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy;
- you think are pregnant.
Other side effects, known as common side effects, affecting up to 1 in 100 people are:
- dry mouth
- hot flushes
- changes in your sex drive (more or less)
- acne or itching
- flu or fever
- changes to your appetite
- emotional changes or anxiety
- problems with your vision
In rare cases, you may suffer the following (affects up to 1 in 1000 people):
- loss of concentration
- genital pain
- pain after sex
- unusually light period
- rupture of an ovarian cyst
- sensitivity to light
- feeling thirsty
Talk to your healthcare professional if you experience any side effects.
When shouldn’t you use EllaOne?
Not all medication is suitable for everyone. You should not use EllaOne if you are allergic to ulipristal acetate or any other of the ingredients in the tablet. EllaOne also contains lactose, see the patient leaflet for a full list of ingredients. EllaOne should not be used as a regular method of contraception.
If your period is late before you take EllaOne you should speak to a doctor or pharmacist. EllaOne is designed to prevent a pregnancy but will not put end to a pregnancy that already exists. If you take EllaOne whilst pregnant there is no sign that it will harm your baby but you should discuss it with a doctor. If you take EllaOne whilst breastfeeding you shouldn’t breastfeed your baby for a week after taking it as the effects of the pill on breast milk are not known.
Does EllaOne interact with other medications?
You should always tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any other medication, including herbal supplements and vitamin. Some medicines prevent EllaOne from working properly, if you have taken any of the following in the 4 weeks before you take EllaOne it may not be suitable for you and you will need to seek a contraceptive device that does not rely on hormones (e.g. copper IUD):
- medicines used to treat tuberculosis
- medicines used to treat epilepsy
- medicines used to treat fungal infections
- Glucocorticoids used to treat severe asthma
- any herbal medicines that contain St John’s Wort
- HIV treatments
Where can I buy EllaOne?
EllaOne can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy, you will need to speak to a pharmacist to ensure the medicine is suitable for you, but you do not need a prescription. Don’t worry about talking to a pharmacist, they deal with hundreds of more embarrassing queries on a daily basis and will not judge you in any way. If you are nervous you might want to consider ordering from an online pharmacy, it’s discreet and easy to do, you can answer a few simple questions online which will be assessed by a pharmacist and then either collect your tablet in-store or order it to be delivered to you. Remember it is most effective when taken as soon as possible.
Can I get EllaOne without a prescription?
Yes, you can, you do not need a prescription for EllaOne morning after pill, you simply need to chat to a pharmacist and you can buy it over the counter or order online.
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Morning After Pill (2019) Retrieved from https://www.chelwest.nhs.uk/services/hiv-sexual-health/morning-after-pill
HRAPHARMA Common contraceptive myths - busted (February 2019) Retrieved from https://www.ellaone.co.uk/emergency-contraception-myths/
HRAPHARMA ellaOne Patient Leaflet (August 2018) Retrieved from https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.6657.pdf
HRAPHARMA How does ellaOne work? (February 2019) Retrieved from https://www.ellaone.co.uk/ellaone-works/
HRAPHARMA Is ellaOne suitable for me? (February 2019) Retrieved from https://www.ellaone.co.uk/ellaone-suitable-contraindicated/
HRAPHARMA What is ellaOne? (February 2019) Retrieved from https://www.ellaone.co.uk/ellaone/
NHS UK Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill/IUD) (February 2018) Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/emergency-contraception/?tabname=getting-started#side-effects-of-using-the-emergency-pill
NHS UK When Sex Goes Wrong (August 2018) https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/when-sex-goes-wrong/