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

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.

ellaOne

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.

Richter

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.