Article updated January 2020

We can sometimes get ourselves into unpredictable situations. And, no matter the circumstances, it's always important to ensure that plans are in place to deal with the matters accordingly. Within this guide, we will be taking you through the two most popular morning after pills, in order to establish which emergency contraceptive is right for you.

Who Needs Emergency Contraception?

Even the most conscientious of people can suffer an accident or make a misjudgment that leads to the possibility of conception. This may include those individuals who have:

  • Not used contraception during intercourse
  • Used a condom that has split or come off
  • Failed to withdraw as intended
  • Missed their contraceptive pill

What Is The Morning After Pill?

A fast and effective solution to such occurrences is an emergency contraceptive – otherwise known as the ‘morning after pill’.

Provided that the medication is taken a short period of time after the unprotected sex has taken place, emergency contraceptives can be a simple and hassle-free way to ensure that a woman does not fall pregnant.

At Express Pharmacy, we now stock two emergency contraceptives; Levonelle and ellaOne. If you have ever wondered "how does the morning after pill work?" or have any other queries about each pill, then read on.

EllaOne or Levonelle?

EllaOne

emergency contraceptionEllaOne is considered to be the most effective morning after pill on the market. It is a medicine known as a selective progesterone receptor modulator. The active ingredient is a chemical called ulipristal acetate, which comes in the form of a single tablet

During the typical menstrual cycle, progesterone is produced once the egg has matured and been released from the ovaries - serving to prevent the release of any more eggs into the fallopian tubes. Within ellaOne, ulipristal mimics this process and encourages the body to believe that ovulation has already occurred - preventing the egg's release for five days[1].

How Effective Is ellaOne?

EllaOne is considered to be 95% effective when taken within five days of unprotected intercourse, offering a significantly longer window for treatment than Levonelle. It is important to say, however, that those not wishing to fall pregnant should take ellaOne as soon as possible after sex, rather than allowing the full 120 hours to elapse.

A drawback of ellaOne is that it may only be taken once during a single menstrual cycle, and may disrupt long-term contraception such as the combined pill during the cycle.

The result of this is that it is not always possible to continue sexual activity as normal during the subsequent menstrual cycle due to the increased likelihood of pregnancy.

EllaOne side effects

Whilst usually rare and not considered serious, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of when taking ellaOne. These may include:

  • Irregular bleeding after ellaOne
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains

Should you take any other prescription medications for health conditions, it is important to seek the advice of a pharmacist or GP before taking ellaOne.

How Does EllaOne Work? Does Work It After Ovulation?

EllaOne works by delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries and so if you have unprotected sexual intercourse the day of or in the immediate days after ovulation, ellaOne is no longer an effective form of contraception. It is for this reason that a GP or pharmacist will ask questions about a woman's menstrual cycle before prescribing the morning after pill. Nevertheless, ellaOne success rates are extremely high when used appropriately by women who have unprotected sex ahead of ovulation.

Levonelle

The morning after pill Levonelle is the most widely used emergency contraception pill on the market today. Although it is considered to be less effective than ellaOne and may only be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, it is a cheaper and more flexible option.

Levonelle effectiveness

Levonelle contains the active ingredient levonorgestrel. It is recommended that Levonelle is ingested within 12 hours of unprotected sex for maximum effectiveness, but it is possible to take the medication with some reliability up to 3 days after intercourse. Levonelle success rate figures are as follows:

  • Up to 95% effective when taken within the first 24 hours after intercourse
  • Up to 85% effective when taken within the first 48 hours after intercourse
  • Up to 58% effective when taken within the first 72 hours after intercourse

An added benefit of Levonelle is that it is possible to take the tablet more than once during the same menstrual cycle if you should require it. And unlike ellaOne, which can inhibit some forms of contraceptive pill, Levonelle allows women to continue using their usual pill-based contraception effectively throughout the remainder of the month.

Levonelle side effects

Much like ellaOne, side effects are rare with Levonelle. For those women who do experience some mild problems, the most common of these are:

  • Bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains

It should be mentioned that neither ellaOne nor Levonelle have any effectiveness against the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Emergency contraceptives should never be taken as a replacement for protected sex and if unsure as to the likelihood of an STI being contracted, a condom should always be used.

More information can be found available via the Family Planning Association.

Comparing ellaOne and Levonelle

Take Within Effectiveness Price
Levonelle 72 hours 95% if taken in 24 hours £19.00
ellaOne 120 hours 95% if taken in 5 days £30.00

Emergency Contraception FAQs

Who Can Use The Morning After Pill?

The emergency pill is deemed to be both effective and suitable for the majority of women – including those who are unable to use hormonal contraception. It is even suitable for girls under 16 who have had unprotected sex.

Exceptions to this include those women who may be allergic to the ingredients in ellaOne or Levonelle. If you have severe asthma or take any medicines that are known to interact with the emergency pill, you should also seek medical advice. This includes those using:

  • Epilepsy, HIV or TB medicines
  • Acid reflux medicines such as omeprazole
  • Antibiotics such as rifabutin or rifampicin
  • The herbal medicine St John’s Wort

Other Forms of Emergency Contraception

The morning after pill – in the form of ellaOne or Levonelle – is not the only form of emergency contraception that can be used. The Intrauterine Device (IUD), known as the copper coil, is another solution that can be used up to 5 days after sexual intercourse.

The release of copper into the womb prevents fertilisation and implantation of the egg. One of the benefits of the IUD is that it can be inserted up to 120hrs after unprotected sex or after ovulation, helping to prevent pregnancy even after an egg has been released into the fallopian tubes[i].

The IUD is also commonly used as a continuous form of contraception and is both an effective form of standard contraception and the most effective method of emergency contraception. However, the IUD requires planning in advance, meaning the morning after pill is more convenient for those who find themselves in unexpected and unwanted situations.

Act Fast, Act Safely

If you require more information regarding the Levonelle or ellaOne contraceptive treatments, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts on 0208 123 0703. Alternatively, browse our emergency contraception range to purchase either one.

Article updated January 2020


[1] https://www.ellaone.com/ellaone-works/

[i] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/emergency-contraception/