Important information for you to know about taking ella®

Condom split? Missed pill? Caught in the moment? Whatever the reason, realizing that you’ve had unprotected sex and could be at risk of pregnancy is never a fun moment. Don’t feel alone – plenty of people have been in this situation before.

To reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, it is wise to seek emergency contraception as soon as possible. Your doctor might prescribe a morning after pill, such as ella®, or discuss other options with you. Any emergency contraceptive is more effective the sooner you use it

What is ella®?

ella® is an oral emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning after pill) containing ulipristal acetate. It is only available by prescription that can be filled online on and is also available at most pharmacies.
If you have had unprotected sex, taking ella® can prevent unplanned pregnancy. ella® can be effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex has taken place, but like all morning after pills it is more effective the sooner you take it.

ella® is intended for use in the case of emergency it is not meant to be a replacement for a regular method of contraception.

How does ella® work? 

ella® works by delaying ovulation so that any sperm in the female reproductive system cannot find an egg to fertilize, and so no pregnancy can occur.

When you have unprotected sex, sperm travel from the vagina, through the cervix and up the fallopian tubes where they wait for an egg. ella® helps prevent or delay ovulation until all the sperm have died (5 days), so there is no egg for them to fertilize and no pregnancy can take place.

It is very important that you take ella® as soon as possible after unprotected sex for it to be most effective.

If ovulation has already taken place, no morning after pill will be effective. It is very hard to know when you are ovulating as your cycle can change from month to month. By taking ella® as soon as possible after unprotected sex, you reduce the risk of ovulating in that time.

The morning after pill only works by preventing ovulation, it can not cause an abortion and it will not have any effect in a case where an egg has already been fertilised.

How effective is ella®?

In a clinical trial, ella® has been shown to reduce the rate of pregnancy to just 9 in 1000 when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex 2.

You can take ella® up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, but it is more effective the sooner you take it.

What to expect after taking ella®?

ella® is generally well tolerated but, like any medicine, some people will experience side effects after taking ella®. The most common adverse reactions (that affect more than 5 in 100 people)
in the clinical trials for women receiving ella were headache and nausea and abdominal and upper abdominal pain. For more information about potential side effects, please see this article. You should talk to your doctor about any specific concerns.

It is important to remember that ella® is only effective for a specific instance of unprotected sex. Taking ella® will not protect you for future occasions of unprotected sex. Your fertility will return to normal very quickly, and you should use a condom until your next period arrives, even if you are using a hormonal method of contraception like the pill.

The side effects are usually mild and do not last long. Generally there is no reason that taking ella® should interfere with what you had planned for that day or the evening afterwards. You can drink alcohol after using ella®.

What are the side effects of ella®?

The most common side effects of ella® include:

  • headache

  • nausea

  • stomach (abdominal) pain

  • menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea)

  • tiredness

  • dizziness

Some women taking ella® may have their next period earlier or later than expected. If your period is more than a week late, you should get a pregnancy test.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
These are not all the possible side effects of ella®. For more information, ask your healthcare
provider or pharmacist.
Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects.

How do you take ella®?

ella® is a single pill. One tablet has to be taken orally (with or without food). You can take ella® at any time of day or night.

If you vomit within three hours of taking ella®, you should contact your doctor as you may need to take another pill.

Woman looking down
Woman looking down

When should you take ella®?

Despite the nickname ‘morning after pill’, you can use ella® at any time of day or night, and it can still be effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Indeed, it can still be effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.

ella® is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex has taken place. ella® can be taken at any time of the menstrual cycle, but if you have ovulated then it may not be effective – however this is very difficult to predict, so speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider who will be able to advise you further.

Who can take ella®?

Your healthcare professional will ask you a number of questions to check that this medicine is suitable for you. Do not take ella® if you know or suspect you are already pregnant. ella® is not for use to end an existing pregnancy.

ella® may not be suitable if…

  • You are allergic to ulipristal acetate, or any other ella® ingredients.

  • If you have certain medical conditions or are on some medicines.

  • You are already pregnant. If there is a chance you might be pregnant (e.g. your period is late) then you should take a pregnancy test before taking ella®.

ella® does not protect against STI/HIV.

If you are breastfeeding, you should not breastfeed for one week after taking ella®. You can continue to express milk in order to stimulate and maintain production, but this milk should be thrown away.

What are the ingredients in ella®?

The active ingredient in ella® is ulipristal acetate. Each tablet contains 30 milligrams of ulipristal acetate. This is what postpones ovulation.

The inactive ingredients in ella® are lactose monohydrate, povidone, croscarmellose sodium and magnesium stearate.

What medicines could ella® interact with?

What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking ella?
See “Who should not take ella®?”
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Using some other medicines may make ella® less effective. These include St. John’s Wort, bosentan, griseofulvin, phenytoin, topiramate, oxcarbazepine, carbamazepine, barbitarates, rifampin, and felbamate.Talk to your healthcare provider about whether ella is right for you if you are currently using these medications. Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

The healthcare professional who prescribes ella® will ask if you are taking any other medicines, you should also tell them if you’ve used OTC medicines or any dietary supplements. This is because some medicines can prevent ella® from working properly.

If you have used any of these medicines in the last month, ella® might not be suitable for you:

  • Medicines to treat epilepsy (including primidone, phenobarbital, phenytoin, fosphenytoine, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine and barbiturates)

  • Medicines to treat tuberculosis (including rifampicin and rifabutin)

  • Treatment for HIV (ritonavir, efavirenz, nevirapine)

  • Medicine for fungal infections (griseofulvin)

  • Herbal remedies containing St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before using ella® when you use (or have recently used) any of the medicines stated above. They may recommend you use another type of emergency contraceptive, like the copper intrauterine device.

Can’t find an answer to your question about ella®? Try our ella® FAQs page.