When to take the morning after pill

7th May 2019

We’re all told that prevention is better than cure, hence why there are so many different contraceptive options on the market, from condoms to the pill to more long-term choices like the IUD or coil. And while it’s always wise to ensure you’re protected against pregnancy and STI’s (for which condoms are the only option), accidents happen, things can happen in the moment and you may not always have protection at the forefront of your mind. So what do you do if you’ve forgotten to use contraception?

The morning after pill

The morning after pill is an effective choice for when you have forgotten to use protection and has been proven to be up to 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. Its effectiveness does however, depend on how soon after unprotected sex you take it, with the risk of pregnancy increasing the longer you wait. For this reason, it’s always best to take the morning after pill within 12-24 hours (as the name suggests) to ensure maximum chance of it working.

How long after unprotected sex you can take the morning after pill depends on which one you choose. Levonelle is an effective morning after pill that can work up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. Its effectiveness is highest when taken within 12 hours of the act (95% effective) and then it drops down to 58% if you leave it the maximum amount of time and take it after 72 hours.

Levonelle is a prescription-only medicine though, which poses challenges in regards to the 72 hour window; if you have sex on a Friday night then you probably won’t be able to get in to see a doctor until at least the Monday morning, by which point the chances of it working properly have decreased significantly. Because of this, online services like UK Meds offer a convenient and safe alternative to simply waiting for your nearest doctor’s surgery to open. By ordering and completing a doctor consultation online, your order can be checked, approved, shipped and delivered in a matter of hours, to ensure that the medication is at it most effective.

The other morning after pill option is ellaOne and this one can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. While you should still take it as soon as possible to maximise its effectiveness, this medication does give users more flexibility and can be more convenient thanks to the extra 48 hours on the time window of opportunity. ellaOne is also a pharmacy level medication, which means that you don’t need a prescription in order to obtain it, however, you do need to buy it from a registered pharmacy.

How to take it

Once you have decided on either Levonelle or ellaOne, you will find the medications very easy to use. Like you would expect based on the name, both options are a single tablet that should be taken orally with a drink of water. Always ensure you read the patient information leaflet before taking either one to ensure you have checked that it’s suitable for you and that you understand the precautions and possible side effects.

Practising safe sex

Although the morning after pill has proven to be an effective medication that provides women with safe options to help protect them against pregnancy following on from unprotected sex, it’s important that it’s not solely relied on.

The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception, which means that you should only use it in circumstances where contraception has been forgotten or has faltered (like a broken condom, for example). You should not use it regularly and if you find that you have had to take the morning after pill more than once then you should go to your GP or sexual health clinic to discuss regular contraception options, of which there are many.

It’s also important to remember that pregnancy is not your only risk when having unprotected sex, and the morning after pill will not protect you against STI’s like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV. Ensure you practise safe sex and protect yourself from infection by always using condoms and getting yourself checked regularly (at least once a year or after each new partner).

While the morning after pill provides effective prevention of pregnancy (when used correctly) in a post-sex capacity, it will not work if you are already pregnant. The morning after pill works by delaying ovulation and preventing an egg from being fertilised. If this has already happened then the morning after pill will not work and you will need to see a doctor to discuss your options.