I don’t think we can ever say that there is an answer to unprotected sex in the sense that if we are to protect against sexually transmitted infections, we should always use a condom during sexual intercourse. This is particularly important when having sex with a new partner or multiple partners.
However, sex isn’t always something we plan, it can very easily happen in the heat of the moment when passion and hormones can just take over. Even if the act is planned and you have used a condom, there are occasions when the condom splits or falls off and so you are still at risk of falling pregnant. It is here that the morning after pill comes in.
There are two types of morning after pill:
Levonelle (levonorgestrel) can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex but it is more effective if it is taken within the first 12 hours
EllaOne (ulipristal acetate) which can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex
Birth control pills that contain pregesterone and oestrogen can also be used as emergency contraception if you take them at a higher dose within 3 - 5 days of unprotected sex. This does work but is less effective than other forms of emergency contraception
The active ingredient in Levonelle is Levonorgestrel which is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone which we produce in our ovaries. It is believed that it will stop or delay the production of an egg when we ovulate
The active ingredient in EllaOne is ulipristal acetate. This Substance blocks the progesterone from working as it normally would. It also works by stopping or delaying the release of an egg.
The morning after pill is quite effective at preventing pregnancy and the earlier it is taken the more effective it will be. It will not prevent pregnancy from any intercourse that takes place after taking the morning after pill.
The morning after pill is not as effective as using regular contraception.
According to research carried out by the World Health Organisation, Levonorgestrel worked with the following levels of efficacy:
EllaOne shows 95% effectiveness over the first 24 hours and continues at this level for up to 5 days.
There are a number of side effects associated with the morning pill which typically last a few days. They are listed below:
In addition, your next period may appear early and be more painful than usual.
Even if you are intolerant to hormonal contraception such as the contraceptive patch, pill or implant, the morning after pill is safe to use. It can also be given to girls under 16 years of age.
If however you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the morning after pill, have serious asthma or are taking any drugs that may interact with it it is advisable not to use this form of emergency contraception. Medication that may interact include the following:
EllaOne cannot be taken as the morning after pill if any of these medications are being taken as it wouldn’t work. However, Levonelle could be considered although the dose given would need to be raised
Fitting the Emergency Coil (IUD) is 99% effective if fitted within 5 days, making it more effective than the morning after pill. However, this needs to be fitted by a health professional either at your GP’s surgery or a family planning clinic.
In addition, it can be considered as a long term form of contraception as it can remain in place for 5 - 10 years.