If you have had unprotected sex or if your contraception has failed, for example, a split condom or a missed pill, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.
There are two types of emergency contraception: the morning after pill and the IUD, known as the copper coil. Levonelle and ellaOne are the two types of emergency contraceptive pill known as the morning after pill. The copper coil is a long term reversible method of contraception which lasts for 5-10 years once it is inserted.
Emergency contraception is most effective the quicker you use it. The Levonelle contraceptive pill must be taken within 3 days of having unprotected sex. EllaOne can be taken up to day 5 and the IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Levonelle is most effective within the first 12 hours. If you take it in the first 24 hours it has a 95% efficiency rate. After this, it will be 85% effective within 48 hours and 58% within 72 hours. EllaOne is 95% effective at protecting against pregnancy for up to 5 days and the IUD has an efficiency rate of 99%.
You can access the morning after pill from your local pharmacy, sexual health clinic or GP. You don't need a prescription for it, you can go straight to a pharmacy and request it. You can either purchase it outright or get it issued for free after having a consultation. We have both forms of the morning after pill available from Dr Felix to order in advance. Due to the time-sensitive nature of the medicine we cannot issue it for emergency use by post. The IUD is available from some GPs, sexual health or family planning clinics.
Levonelle delays ovulation by releasing levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of progesterone, into the womb. This essentially tricks the body into thinking that ovulation has already taken place. EllaOne works in the same way by releasing ulipristal acetate to alter the way the natural progesterone in your ovaries works.
The IUD is a small, T-shaped copper and plastic device which releases copper into the womb to prevent pregnancy from occurring. It also alters the mucus surrounding the cervix to prevent sperm from entering. You can have it inserted up to 5 days after having unprotected sex and it will prevent pregnancy from occurring. It is more than 99% effective and can be left in for 5-10 years as a long term method of contraception.
The emergency contraceptive pill does not cause any serious or long term effects but it can cause temporary side effects. These can include:
If you vomit within 2 hours of taking Levonelle or 3 hours of taking ellaOne, see a doctor or pharmacist as you will need to take another dose.
It's rare to experience complications with the IUD but it can cause:
Certain medications can interact with the morning after pill. These include:
EllaOne cannot be used alongside any of these medications. You may still be able to take Levonelle. Medication will not affect the IUD but it may not be suitable if:
It may be necessary to take the morning after pill if you have forgotten to take the pill or if the patch or vaginal ring has been used incorrectly. After Levonelle you should:
Emergency Contraception is freely available for adolescents under the age of 16. The doctor or nurse will want to ensure that you have enough information and understanding of your situation. They will encourage you to tell your parents but they will not tell anyone else unless they believe you are at risk or harm or abuse.