EllaOne is commonly referred to as the morning-after pill. It is a medicine taken to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the usual method of contraception has failed (e.g. split condom, forgotten to take regular pill etc.). EllaOne is an effective treatment to prevent you from getting pregnant, even when you are about to ovulate, and can be taken at any time during the menstrual cycle. EllaOne contains the active ingredient ulipristal acetate and works by delaying ovulation. The active ingredient prevents the production of the progesterone hormone which is needed for ovulation to occur, delaying ovulation long enough for the sperm that is inside the female body to die. The eggs are only released once the sperm has died off, preventing pregnancy. 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 nine women falling pregnant after taking it within 24 hours compared to 23 with other drugs.
Unprotected sex is one of those things: even when we think we are doing everything right, sometimes it just happens. Maybe you got carried away in the moment, or thought that the person you were with had it all covered, while they were thinking the same about you, but in reality, nobody had it covered. It could be that the condom split, or maybe you realised later the one you were using was out of date or simply not doing its job properly. Perhaps you did not realise in time that you had forgotten to take your regular contraceptive pill, or you are worried that for some reason it was not doing its job correctly – for example if you have had an upset stomach.
Rest assured, you are not the first person that this has happened to, and we can be pretty sure you will not be that last. Now is the time, however, to take precautions. If you have had unprotected sex, you should get tested for STIs. This applies even for woman-on-woman and man-on-man sex. Not all STIs show symptoms, so it is always worth getting checked out. If you are a woman who has had unprotected sex with a man, then there is also the chance that you might be pregnant. It does not matter where you are in your cycle, and using the ‘withdrawal’ method is no guarantee either. However, it is 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 take them a few days after having unprotected sex:
- an IUD (intra-uterine device) which can be inserted up to five days after you have had unprotected sex and then stays in, so it provides continuous contraception;
- the morning-after pill. EllaOne can be taken up to five days after having unprotected sex, Levonelle can be taken up to three days after having unprotected sex.
Read on for more information about how EllaOne can help, where to obtain it and what you need to know.
What is EllaOne?
EllaOne is commonly referred to as the morning-after pill. It is a medicine taken to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the usual method of contraception has failed (e.g. split condom, forgotten to take regular pill etc.). EllaOne is an effective treatment to prevent you from getting pregnant, even when you are about to ovulate, and can be taken at any time during the menstrual cycle. EllaOne contains the active ingredient ulipristal acetate and works by delaying ovulation. The active ingredient prevents the production of the progesterone hormone which is needed for ovulation to occur, delaying ovulation long enough for the sperm that is inside the female body to die. The eggs are only released once the sperm has died off, preventing pregnancy. 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 nine women falling pregnant after taking it within 24 hours compared to 23 with other drugs.
When is EllaOne used?
The sooner you take the EllaOne morning-after pill 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 five days (120 hours) after you have had unprotected sex. It is important to get the EllaOne morning-after pill as soon as you can, to ensure that it is as effective as possible. The EllaOne morning-after pill should not be taken as a regular method of contraception, and if you are already pregnant, it will not put a halt to your pregnancy.
EllaOne only prevents pregnancy and cannot protect you from STIs, so it is worth getting checked if you have had unprotected sex. You can purchase the EllaOne morning-after pill to use at a later date if you think you might need it, for example, if you are going on holiday or you rely solely on condoms for contraception. The EllaOne morning-after pill 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, and check with them if there is anything you are unsure about. The EllaOne morning-after pill is a one-time treatment. It is a tablet that is taken orally 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 the EllaOne morning-after pill is up to five days after unprotected sex, because sperm can survive in your body for up to five days.
What dosages are there?
Each EllaOne tablet contains 30 mg of ulipristal acetate. You take it as a single dose with or without food any time up to five days after having unprotected sex or a contraceptive fail. The sooner you take it, the better. You can only take the EllaOne morning-after pill once during your menstrual cycle, and 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 should not cause any harm.
If you are sick within three hours of taking the EllaOne morning-after pill, seek medical assistance as you may need to take a second dose, since 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 the EllaOne morning-after pill, 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, the EllaOne morning-after pill 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 three 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, take 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 seven 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 should you not use EllaOne?
Not all medication is suitable for everyone. You should not use the EllaOne morning-after pill 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. The EllaOne morning-after pill should not be used as a regular method of contraception.
If your period is late before you take the EllaOne morning-after pill, 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 the EllaOne morning- after pill whilst pregnant, there is no sign that it will harm your baby, but you should discuss it with a doctor. If you take the EllaOne morning-after pill whilst breastfeeding, you should not 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 vitamins. Some medicines prevent the EllaOne morning-after pill from working properly, and if you have taken any of the following in the four 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, epilepsy or fungal infections:
- Glucocorticoids used to treat severe asthma;
- Any herbal medicines that contain St. John’s Wort;
- HIV treatments.
Where can I buy EllaOne?
The EllaOne morning-after pill can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy, and while you will need to speak to a pharmacist to ensure the medicine is suitable for you, you do not need a prescription. Do not worry about talking to a pharmacist as they deal with similar 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 is easy and discreet: 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 however that the EllaOne morning-after pill is most effective when taken as soon as possible.
Can I get EllaOne without a prescription?
Yes, you do not need a prescription for the EllaOne morning-after pill, you simply need to talk 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/
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