Woman staring in the air
Woman staring in the air

Everything you need to know about emergency contraception and the morning after pill

Everyone knows that if you are having sex and not planning on getting pregnant, you need to use contraception. But what happens if something goes wrong with your contraception – a condom breaks, or you forget to take a pill? Or what happens if you forget to use contraception in the heat of the moment?

Don’t panic. Whatever the circumstances, if you’ve had unprotected sex and you don’t want to become pregnant, you should consider emergency contraception.

We’re here to answer all your questions about emergency contraception: what is the morning after pill, how does emergency contraception work and when to take it. If you have a question you don’t see an answer to, try our FAQs.

What are the different types of emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception include pills such as ella® and copper intrauterine device (IUD).

If you aren’t sure which emergency contraceptive is right for you, you should be able to talk through your options with a pharmacist, doctor, or sexual health nurse. Remember, all of these healthcare professionals are here to help you make an informed decision that makes you feel comfortable and confident.

Where can I get emergency contraception?

You can get the morning after pill with a prescription at most pharmacies nationwide, or even order it through an online pharmacy. More on that below.

How does the copper intrauterine device (IUD) work?

Woman holding up a IUD
Woman holding up a IUD

The copper coil is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) that can also be used for emergency contraception. The IUD is inserted into the uterus by a doctor or nurse, and releases copper into the womb which alters the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, and can make it difficult for an egg to implant. Once inserted, the copper coil can protect against pregnancy for 5-10 years, depending on the type.

The copper coil can be used as an emergency contraceptive if inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Don’t forget that the copper coil will only protect against pregnancy and not against STIs, so you should still use condoms if sleeping with a new partner.


How does the morning after pill work?

The morning after pill works by preventing or delaying ovulation (egg release). This means that after unprotected sex, all the sperm find they have no egg to fertilize and nowhere to go.

Do you want to learn more about ella®? Read our guide All you need to know about taking ella®.

How effective is the morning after pill?

ella® is proven to prevent pregnancy in 98 out of a 100 women1. There are two types of morning after pill: those containing levonorgestrel, and ella®, which contains ulipristal acetate

ella® can be effective for up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, whereas levonorgestrel can be taken up to 72 hours afterwards – but both pills are more effective
the sooner you take them. You should take the morning after pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex for it to be most effective.

Did you know you can even buy the morning after pill in advance, and keep it in your medicine cabinet in case of emergency? For more information on buying ella®, please continue below.

No contraception is 100% effective, and the morning after pill is no exception.

Where can I get the morning after pill?

You can get ella® from your healthcare provider, family planning clinics, campus and student health centers, urgent care centers, or emergency rooms.

What happens when you take the morning after pill?

The morning after pill works by delaying ovulation. By doing this, it means that the sperm have nothing to fertilize so no pregnancy can begin. Unfortunately, if you have already ovulated, then the morning after pill won’t be effective. However, ovulation can be difficult to pinpoint and can vary from month to month.

Some people worry about the side effects of the morning after pill, but most people will only experience mild side effects – if they experience any at all.

Taking the morning after pill can also affect your next period: making it a few days earlier or later, or lighter or heavier than usual. This is totally normal. However, if your period is more than 7 days late, then you might want to take a pregnancy test and and follow up with your healthcare provider.

There is no evidence that ella® has any effect on future fertility and your chance to have children in the future. In fact, fertility generally returns so quickly after taking ella® that we recommend using a condom until your next period, even if you are using another method of contraception like the pill.

Click here to learn more about the morning after pill side effects.

Who can take the morning after pill?

Most people can take the morning after pill without any complications. The consultation you have with you healthcare professional will determine whether the morning after pill is suitable for

If there is a chance you are already pregnant, a healthcare professional will want you to take a pregnancy test to make sure you are not already pregnant, before giving you the morning after pill.

If you are breastfeeding you will have the choice to take the morning after pill, but with ella® you should not breastfeed for one week after taking it. You should instead express your milk and discard it, in order to keep stimulating lactation.

You should not take the morning after pill if you are allergic to any of the ingredients, or if you are taking any medicines that could interact with the emergency contraception pill. If this is the case, you may be recommended to get a copper IUD

Is the morning after pill the same as an abortion?

No. Absolutely not. The morning after pill is not an abortion pill.

It’s really important that you understand that the morning after pill can not terminate a
pregnancy, it can only prevent one from beginning by delaying ovulation.

If you take oral emergency contraception whilst pregnant, there is no evidence it will have any effect – harmful or otherwise – on the baby.

Will the morning after pill protect me from STDs?

ella does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases/infections.

We all know that safe sex is great sex, but for when things go wrong it’s really important to have a back up that can help prevent an unplanned pregnancy. The more you know about emergency contraception, the more confident you can feel if you find yourself in a situation where you choose to take it.

We believe that taking the morning after pill should be free of confusion, judgement and panic: and the best way to do that is by making sure you’re clued up about emergency contraception.

Have more questions about the morning after pill? Try our FAQs.