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When to Take the Morning After Pill

Posted Wednesday 26 August 2020 12:00 by in Emergency Contraception by Harman Bhamra

Do you know when to take the morning after pill in order to maximize its effectiveness?

The morning after pill is an effective emergency contraceptive that’s designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Studies show that 20% or 1 in every 5 women in the country between ages 18 and 35 take the morning after pill at least once every year.

The morning after pill should not be used as a regular contraceptive. Being an emergency contraceptive, it should only be taken if the sex was unprotected or if your contraception failed (e.g. you missed your pill, split condom, etc.).

When is the right time to take the morning after pill?

Express Pharmacy stocks three types of morning after pills. Namely: Levonelle, ellaOne, and Richter. All have different windows of effectiveness.


Levonelle is a type of emergency hormonal contraception. It was licensed in the UK in June 2004. Levonelle’s active ingredient, levonorgestrel, works by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg. It also helps prevent the sperm from fertilizing any egg that may have been released by your ovaries prior to unprotected sex.

When to take Levonelle

Levonelle must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse. Studies show that it’s most effective if taken within 12 hours of unprotected sex. If taken within 24 hours, Levonelle can stop up to 95% of unwanted pregnancies.

How to use Levonelle

Take one tablet of Levonelle orally within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Take a replacement dose if you vomited within 2 hours of taking the medication.


Another type of emergency hormonal contraception is ellaOne. This prescription-only medication has an active ingredient called ulipristal acetate which inhibits or delays ovulation. This means that your ovaries will not release an egg for the sperm to fertilize during unprotected sex.

When to take ellaOne

Like all emergency contraceptives, ellaOne is most effective when taken as early as possible. Studies show that ellaOne can be effective if taken within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sexual intercourse.

How to use ellaOne

Take one tablet of ellaOne orally within 120 hours of unprotected sex. If vomiting occurs within 3 hours of taking the tablet, take another dose. You can take ellaOne with or without food.

We don’t recommend using ellaOne again within the same menstrual cycle. If you have an active sex life, make sure to use other forms of contraception until your next period.


Like the previous two, Richter is also an emergency hormonal contraceptive. It also contains levonorgestrel --- the same active ingredient as Levonelle. Richter works by preventing or delaying your ovulation. It also prevents pregnancy by keeping the sperm from fertilizing an egg that may have been released by your ovaries prior to unprotected intercourse.

When to take Richter

Like Levonelle, Richter must be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. The sooner, the better. This emergency contraception is known to prevent 84% of unwanted pregnancies if taken within its effectiveness window.

How to use Richter

Take one tablet of Richter orally within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Ideally, within the first 12 hours. If you vomited within 3 hours of taking this after morning pill, take another dose.

We don’t recommend using Richter as your regular contraceptive. Don’t take another dose of Richter until your next menstrual cycle. If you plan on having sex before your next period, make sure to use other forms contraceptives like a condom to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Frequently asked questions about the morning after pill

Is the morning after pill safe?

Millions of people in the UK have taken a morning after pill at least once a year. There have been no reports of serious complications involving after morning pills so these drugs are generally safe.

Some common side effects of after morning pills include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Painful period

These side effects are usually mild and will go away on their own after some time.

Can I take the morning after pill regularly?

While taking the morning after pill as needed will not hurt you, we don’t recommend using it as your main contraceptive. Why? Because it’s not as effective as other forms of birth control and they are also more expensive than your regular pills.

How Effective Is ellaOne at Preventing Pregnancy?

Posted Friday 21 August 2020 10:00 by in Emergency Contraception by Harman Bhamra

It can be hard to find the best contraceptive for you, but if you’re curious about ellaOne, you’re in the right place.

EllaOne is a morning-after pill designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is considered to be the most effective morning after pill in Europe - but just how effective is it at preventing pregnancy?

How effective is ellaOne?

EllaOne’s mechanism of action is actually very simple. It works by delaying ovulation if it has not already happened. This means that the sperm waiting in your fallopian tubes will not be able to meet an egg which they can fertilise. Eventually, they’ll die out.

Like all contraceptive pills, ellaOne is not guaranteed to be 100% effective -- especially if you have already ovulated. For the highest chance of success, take ellaOne as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If you decide to have sex after you’ve taken this after-morning pill, we strongly recommend that you use condoms and other methods of contraception until your next period.

Has anyone got pregnant after taking ellaOne?

Yes, but the percentage of women who got pregnant after taking ellaOne is very small. According to this article from the BBC, approximately 0.6 to 2.6 per cent of women who take the after-morning pill after unprotected sex still get pregnant.

You have to remember that after-morning pills don’t work if you have already ovulated once you have had unprotected sex. So, knowing when you ovulate is key to maximizing the effects of ellaOne. Usually, ovulation happens about two weeks before your period.

What happens after taking ellaOne?

Like all types of treatments, ellaOne also has its own side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Feeling sick
  • Headache
  • Painful period
  • Abdominal pain

Most of these are pretty mild and will go away on their own. One thing you need to keep in mind is that these symptoms are also signs of pregnancy. Most women who take ellaOne don’t suffer any of these side effects. If you experienced one of these coupled by a lighter, heavier, or missed period, take a pregnancy test.

It’s possible to experience a delay in your period for more than a week after taking ellaOne. You can take a pregnancy test for your peace of mind.

How long does ellaOne stay effective?

EllaOne can be effective if taken within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. It’s more effective the sooner you take it. Use a barrier method of contraception if you are planning to have sex again after taking ellaOne to lower your risks of unwanted pregnancy.

How ellaOne compares against other forms of contraception

EllaOne is best used together with other methods of contraception. But for comparison’s sake, we’ll take a look at how this after-morning pill stacks against other contraceptive methods in terms of effectiveness (information taken from NHS UK).

Form Of Contraception Perfect Use* Typical Use**
Male condoms 98% effective 82% effective
Female condoms 95% effective 79% effective
Contraceptive pills (combined pill and progestogen-only pill) 99% effective 91% effective
Contraceptive injection (lasts between 8 to 13 weeks) More than 99% effective 94% effective
Contraceptive patch More than 99% effective 91% effective
Diaphragms and caps 92% to 96% effective 71-88% effective
Contraceptive implant More than 99% effective No user failure
Intrauterine system (IUS) More than 99% effective No user failure
Intrauterine device (IUD) More than 99% effective No user failure
Vaginal ring More than 99% effective 91% effective
Emergency contraception (e.g. ellaOne) 98% effective May result in pregnancy if taken after ovulation.

*Perfect use - contraceptive method is always used correctly
**Typical use - contraceptive method is not always used correctly (e.g. missed pill, leakage, etc.)

Where can I get ellaOne?

You can buy ellaOne online from Express Pharmacy.

How Many Times Can You Rely on the Morning After Pill?

Posted Friday 28 February 2020 10:06 by in Emergency Contraception by Harman Bhamra

The Pill. Condoms. IUDs. Nowadays, there are countless forms of contraception available, making it as easy as possible to practice safe sex. But what happens if you forget to use contraception, or if your first method failed?

This is where the morning after pill can help.

How many times can you rely on the morning after pill? How effective is it? Discover all you need to know about the morning after pill and much more right here.

What Does The Morning After Pill Do?

Emergency contraception is most commonly known as the morning after pill. This pill is an over the counter medication which prevents unplanned pregnancy. Despite its name, the pill can typically be taken up to 72-hours after sex, but the sooner it is taken, the more effective it will be at stopping or delaying the release of an egg.

What Types of Morning After Pill Are There?

Levonelle is a type of morning-after pill intended to be taken within 72-hours of sex. The Levonelle pill is said to work by preventing an egg being released or eliminating the ability of it to become fertilized by the sperm if already descended.

EllaOne is another form of emergency contraception but has a longer window of effectiveness. It can be taken up to 5 days after intercourse takes place. The EllaOne pill mainly aims to delay or prevent ovulation to help prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Unlike other morning-after pills, this cannot be taken in conjunction with certain other medicines, such as HIV treatment drugs.

What Are The Side Effects of The Morning After Pill?

Much like other forms of contraception, the morning after pill method is very safe but is not without side effects. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Irregular menstrual cycle

If you experience any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, it’s important to speak to your GP.

Emergency contraception is to be used as a one time fix and does not protect you from any further unprotected sex during your cycle; it also has no prevention qualities from sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

When Do You Have To Take The Morning After Pill?

The effectiveness of the pill will entirely depend on the time after sex it is taken. After unprotected sex, Levonelle can be taken within 72-hours to effectively prevent pregnancy, but the longer you wait to take it, the less effective it becomes. The medication is most effective when taken as soon as possible…

  • Within 24-hours = 95% success rate
  • Within 24 to 48-hours = 85% success rate
  • Within 48 to 72-hours = 58% success rate

However, this period can vary depending on the specific pill you take, EllaOne is effective once taken up to 5-days (120 hours) after unprotected sex and has an effectiveness rate of 98% if used properly.

How Many Times Can You Rely On The Morning After Pill?

The morning after pill has no effect on a woman's long term health and despite some minor side effects, the pill is a safe and simple method of contraception. But this doesn't mean that it should be a long-term solution.

Although the pill does not cause serious harm, it can throw your hormones off course. Menstrual cycles are personal to every woman, with some being regimented and others irregular, but the morning after pill can shake things up. Due to the prevention of ovulation, you could experience irregular bleeding and unravelled emotions because of the disturbance to your hormones.

If you use emergency contraception as what it is - for emergencies - your body has time to rejig your regular cycle and hormones can reset, but frequent use does not allow the body to get back into a routine. It is advised to limit the usage of the morning after pill to once a cycle, to prevent the risk and severity of side effects.

Where Can I Get The Morning After Pill?

Emergency contraception is available to all women, even those under the age of 16. It is most commonly found at:

  • Sexual health clinics
  • GP surgeries
  • Young people clinics
  • NHS walk-in centres
  • An online pharmacy
  • A&E

Many women prefer to opt for more discreet online services, as the pill can be delivered in unbranded packaging. This will be exactly the case at Express Pharmacy, where you can buy effective emergency contraception at the click of a button.

Although not encouraged as a prefered method of contraception, the pill is widely available to everyone in case of emergencies. For girls under the age of 16, getting the morning after pill is kept confidential as long as a doctor or pharmacist believes you are aware and conscious of the decision you are making.

For more information regarding the morning after pill, get in touch with our experts on 0208 123 0703.

Is It Possible to Avoid Pregnancy Without Contraception?

Posted Thursday 28 February 2019 12:05 by in Emergency Contraception by Tim Deakin

avoiding pregnancy

According to the NHS, there are 15 methods of contraception to choose from, each with its own level of effectiveness to consider. [1] However, this does mean that there are plenty of options for every individual and circumstance.

So surely, there’s no reason not to use protection of some kind if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy? Well, not everyone agrees. There are, of course, religious and cultural factors to take into account, as well as a host of myths and theories surrounding contraception and safe sex that have the capacity to confuse matters.

From contraception-free sex methods to myths about contraception itself, let’s see how some of these theories stand up to scrutiny.

Having sex on your period

There is a lot of talk surrounding the notion of having sex on your period. First of all, period sex is safe, and can actually lead to benefits such as relief from menstrual cramps.

However, your period should not be relied on as an effective method of contraception. Although you’re most likely to get pregnant during ovulation, every cycle is different and getting pregnant around your period can happen.[2]

The pull-out technique

The pull-out technique of contraception involves relying on a male partner’s timing. When the male partner feels that the point of climax is approaching, he ‘pulls out’ of the female in order to avoid releasing sperm into the vagina. However, in the heat of the moment, this can be difficult to time effectively, meaning the pull-out technique is not a guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy. In fact, if 100 women were to use the technique for pregnancy prevention each year, roughly 22 would have an unintended pregnancy.[3]

Having sex while breastfeeding

Many women assume that there is a direct correlation between their sex life and their decision to breastfeed. A study in 2005 found that women who were breast-feeding were more likely to delay resuming intercourse than those who were not breastfeeding.[4]

Research has shown that breastfeeding may help to prevent pregnancy if certain conditions are met, namely that the woman is within six months of having delivered the baby, has not had a menstrual cycle and if the baby is feeding only on breastmilk. All three of these conditions need to be met in order for breastfeeding to help in any way with contraception, and even then there is still a significant chance that pregnancy will occur.

The myths surrounding female contraception

The use of modern contraception has increased slightly in recent years, according to the World Health Organisation. In 1990, 54% used modern contraception, compared to 57.4% in 2015. However, this still almost half the female population who are not practising safe sex.[5]

This is partly due to the myths which surround female contraception. One such myth is that birth control causes severe weight gain. An analysis of 49 studies in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that going on the pill made no significant different to a woman’s weight.[6]

Another common misconception is that the use of birth control can lead to birth defects in children. Several studies have found no evidence between taking birth control and the likelihood of birth defects.[7]


Contraception is key

No matter when and how you’re having intercourse, practising safety throughout contraception is an important part of the process. The World Health Organisation summarises some of the key benefits of contraception, including empowering people, reducing adolescent pregnancies, slowing population growth, reducing infant mortality rates and helping to prevent the spread of diseases.[8]

If you’re nervous about seeking contraception from your GP, you can obtain safe and effective contraception discreetly by order from Express Pharmacy. If you have any more questions, you can get in touch with our pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or using our online Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. What is contraception? 2019 [Accessed February 2019]

[2] NHS UK. Can I get pregnant just after my period has finished? 2018 [Accessed February 2019]

[3] Women’s Health Institute. Contraception myths. Cleveland Clinic, 2018 [Accessed February 2019]

[4] Rowland, M, Foxcroft, L., Hopman, W.M., Patel, R. Breastfeeding and sexuality immediately post partum. Can Fam Physician, 2005 [Accessed February 2019]

[5] World Health Organisation. Family Planning Fact Sheet. 2015 [Accessed February 2019]

[6] Gallo, M., Lopez, L., Grimes, D., Carayon, F., Schulz, K., Helmerhorst, F. Combination contraceptives: effects on weight. Cochrane Library, 2014 [Accessed February 2019]

[7] Sifferlin, A., Birth Control Pill Not Linked to Birth Defects: Study. TIME, 2016 [Accessed February 2019]

[8] World Health Organisation. Family Planning Fact Sheet. 2015 [Accessed February 2019]

The Complex Relationship Between Periods and Pregnancy

Posted Thursday 21 February 2019 22:55 by in Emergency Contraception by Tim Deakin

pregnancy and periods

The relationship between periods and pregnancy is one which is constantly being questioned. A lack of open discussion and education has left many women unsure of the impact a period may or may not have on conception and contraception. Last year, there were 792,636 contacts to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the UK made by women with enquiries about pregnancy and contraception. The most likely age group to contact Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for contraception were 18-19 year old females.[1]

So to help clear things up, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about periods and pregnancy.

Is it possible to get your period during pregnancy?

In short, no. You cannot experience a genuine menstrual period while you’re pregnant. The reason many women are confused by this fact is that it is possible to experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, but this is not the same thing as menstruation. In most cases, this spotting is the result of ‘implantation bleeding’, or due to a Pap smear, vaginal exam or sex. However, it can also be a sign of something more serious such as infection, placental issues, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If you experience any bleeding during pregnancy, seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.

When is the best time of the month to try for a baby?

One question many women ask themselves is ‘can you get pregnant anytime of the month?’ This is often born out of frustration at taking a long time to conceive. However, while just over a third of healthy couples will conceive in the first month of trying, it can often take longer. In fact, if you’re under 35 and in good health, it’s perfectly natural for conception to take up to a year.[2] What’s more, it’s estimated that around one in seven couples struggles to conceive.[3]

For the best chances of conception, couples should engage in intercourse within a day or so of ovulation. This describes the point when an egg is released from the ovary, and usually occurs around 14 days after the first day of your last period.

Do irregular periods make it more difficult to conceive?

According to clinical professor of obstetrics-gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, Amy Audrey, MD, at least 30% of women have irregular periods during their child-bearing years.[4]

The effect this has on your chances of getting pregnant really depends on the underlying cause of your irregular periods. In most cases, it will have very little effect on your ability to conceive. However, in certain cases irregular periods can be the result of something more serious like fibroids, blood clotting, polyps or thyroid issues, which can impact your chances of getting pregnant as well as your overall health.

Can you get pregnant on your period?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to pregnancy and periods. The answer is that while you are far less likely to get pregnant on your period, you shouldn’t rely on this alone as a method of contraception. Monthly cycles can be unpredictable, and women with shorter cycles have an increased chance of getting pregnant during their period. Furthermore, it is perfectly possible to fall pregnant just before or just after your period, so using this as a method of contraception can be extremely risky.

The Importance of Contraception

No matter what method you choose, contraception is vital for preventing pregnancy and increasing the safety of your intercourse. The contraceptive pill is typically between 91-99% effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy, while an IUD is more than 99% effective. Male condoms are between 82-98% effective and female condoms are between 79-95% effective.[5]

Simply put, you shouldn’t rely on timing sexual intercourse around your period as your sole method of avoiding pregnancy. If you want to enjoy intercourse without the risk of pregnancy, the right contraception is an absolute must.

Both female contraception and emergency contraception are available safely and discreetly from Express Pharmacy. For further information and guidance, speak to one of our NHS-approved pharmacists today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our online Live Chat service.

[1] NHS UK. Sexual and Reproductive Health Services. 2017. [Accessed February 2019]

[2] Clearblue UK. How long does it take to get pregnant? 2018. [Accessed February 2019]

[3] National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Fertility – assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems. 2013. [Accessed February 2019]

[4] Everyday Health. The Facts About Irregular Periods. 2010. [Accessed February 2019]

[5] NHS UK. How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy? 2017. [Accessed February 2019]