ellaOne, also known as the morning after pill, is one of the most effective types of emergency contraception. It can be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The sooner you take your tablet, the more effective the treatment will be.
ellaOne is a single film coated tablet which contains 30 mg of alipristal acetate, the active ingredient.
ellaOne is one of the most effective morning after pills available to individuals who have had unprotected sex or a slip-up with their usual contraceptive method (for example when you’ve forgotten to take your pill) and want to prevent pregnancy. ellaOne is the brand name of the medication, the active ingredient in ellaOne is ulipristal acetate. The medication comes as a single 30 mg film coated tablet which should be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.
You should always read the instructions on the package leaflet carefully. It’s important to note that the use of emergency contraception does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should get tested for STIs if you have had unprotected sex with a new partner or with changing ones. Using condoms is a safe and easy way to avoid catching an STI during sexual intercourse in the future.
The active ingredient in ellaOne is called ulipristal acetate, which is known as a selective progesterone receptor modulator. This active ingredient prevents pregnancy by delaying the release of an egg from your ovaries (ovulation): If no egg is released, it cannot be fertilised.
It’s important to remember that ellaOne does not prevent fertilisation itself and does not protect you against pregnancy if you have unprotected sex after taking this method of emergency contraception. It’s recommended that you use condoms every time you have sexual intercourse with someone to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
Does ellaOne work if you’ve already ovulated?
No, EllaOne works by preventing ovulation. If ovulation has already occurred and an egg has been released, ellaOne will not be effective in preventing pregnancy.
Important to know: If you think you may have already ovulated and are concerned about the possibility of pregnancy, you can instead get a copper coil fitted at your nearest family planning clinic.
How quickly does ellaOne work?
If taken correctly, ellaOne will start to take effect straight away. It can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) after you have had unprotected sex, but it is most effective if taken as soon as possible. If you vomit or have diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking ellaOne you should speak to your doctor as you may need to take another dose.
You should take 1 ellaOne tablet with water at any time of day or night, within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. The sooner you take the medication, the more effective it will be, as ellaOne delays ovulation for up to 5 days. This is the lifespan of sperm once it has entered the female reproductive system.
You can take ellaOne on a full or empty stomach. There is no known interaction between ellaOne and alcohol, so drinking alcohol after taking ellaOne should not make it less effective. If you vomit or have diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking the tablet, contact your doctor as you will likely need to take a second pill.
How often can I use ellaOne?
You can take EllaOne, Levonelle or generic Levonelle (levonorgestrel) more than once per month. However, you cannot take Levonelle and EllaOne in the same menstrual cycle, if taken within the last 7 days. You should not rely on the morning after pill as a regular form of contraception against pregnancy. If you have questions about how often you can take a morning after pill, you can talk to your doctor.
Should I keep taking my contraceptive pill after taking ellaOne?
The contraceptive pill can affect the effectiveness of ellaOne. So you should wait at least 5 days before you take your next contraceptive pill, or before starting the pill after taking ellaOne. In the meantime, you should use other forms of contraception, like condoms, if you have sex before you restart your pill.
What should I do if I vomit after taking ellaOne?
If you vomit or have diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking the tablet, talk to a doctor or pharmacist immediately as you will need to take another.
The only way to know if the morning after pill has been effective is to wait until your next period arrives or to take a pregnancy test 3 weeks after using it. If your period is more than 7 days late, light or unusually heavy, or if you have any signs of pregnancy, then you should take a pregnancy test. If it comes back positive, then you should contact your doctor.
Current studies prove that ellaOne is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. The overall chance of not getting pregnant after using ellaOne stands at 98 to 99 %. The medication is effective up to 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.
The sooner you take ellaOne, the more effective it will be. ellaOne is not effective after ovulation. This is because it works by delaying ovulation, so if you have already ovulated (released an egg) it cannot work. If you think you have already ovulated, then the copper coil is the only effective emergency contraception and you should speak to a doctor about it as soon as you can.
Most medications have side effects and everyone will experience different side effects from taking the morning after pill. ellaOne is normally well tolerated by individuals and most people will have little to no side effects after taking a morning after pill such as this one.
Some of the most common side effects (affecting up to 1 in 10 people) include:
- breast tenderness
- changes in mood
- feeling sick or vomiting
- stomach pain
Less common side effects (that affect up to 1 in 100 people) include:
- anxiety or agitation
- changes to your sex drive and appetite
- diarrhoea or wind
- dry mouth
- extreme fatigue or sleepiness
- heavy periods and prolonged pms
- hot flushes
- insomnia or trouble sleeping
- irregular vaginal bleeding (i.e. between periods)
- itchy skin
- vaginal irritation or unusual discharge
- visual disturbances
If you do have any side effects, they do not typically last long. If you vomit or have diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking ellaOne, you must contact a healthcare professional. This is because the medicine will no longer be in your system and will not have had time to become fully effective. This means you will most likely need to take another dose.
The most common side effects that are linked with taking ellaOne are usually mild and you should not be concerned if you have them. However, if you have side effects that are out of the ordinary (for example, prolonged), are not listed above or are worrying you, then you should contact your doctor. For very rare side effects, refer to the package insert.
Each ellaOne tablet contains 30mg of the active ingredient, ulipristal acetate.
The other ingredients in ellaOne are:
- lactose monohydrate
- croscarmellose sodium
Most women can safely take an emergency contraceptive like ellaOne. This includes women who cannot take the combined pill or use the contraceptive patch. If you’re aged 16 or over, you’ll be able to buy the emergency contraceptive pill at pharmacies in person or online, or from organisations like the British Advisory Service (BPAS).
If you’re under 16 and want contraception, you can still access free and confidential contraception services. As long as a medical professional believes that you understand the information they give you and the decisions you’re making, and they do not believe that you’re in danger, they will not tell your parents or carer. They will only encourage you to speak to them.
If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in ellaOne, then you should avoid taking it.
You will not be able to use ellaOne if you:
- have certain health conditions (like asthma that requires oral steroids)
- are taking medication for indigestion, fungal infections, epilepsy, TB, or HIV
- are taking St John’s wort
You should not take ellaOne if you’re already pregnant. If you think you may be pregnant, you should take a test before taking this medication.
Can I take ellaOne while breastfeeding?
If you’re breastfeeding, you should avoid breastfeeding for one week after you take ellaOne. During this time, any milk you pump to stimulate and maintain production should be disposed of.
When you order ellaOne, you will be asked if you’re taking any other medicines. You should tell your healthcare professional about any prescription and non-prescription medications you take. This is important as the medicine you’re taking could prevent ellaOne from working.
If you’ve taken any of the following medicines within the last week, then ellaOne may not work for you:
- medicines that treat epilepsy, such as primidone, phenobarbital, phenytoin, fosphenytoin, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine and barbiturates
- medicines that treat tuberculosis (TB), such as rifampicin and rifabutin
- HIV treatment, such as ritonavir, efavirenz and nevirapine
- medicines that treat fungal infections - griseofulvin
- herbal remedies that contain St John’s Wort - Hypericum perforatum
Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to recommend another type of emergency contraceptive if you’ve recently taken any of the medicines listed above. ellaOne can also be affected by the pill or mini pill. This is something you will need to discuss with a medical professional when you request ellaOne.
One of the alternative treatments to ellaOne is Levonelle. Levonelle is similar to ellaOne as it’s a morning after pill that stops pregnancy by preventing ovulation. The generic version of Levonelle is Levonorgestrel. Unlike ellaOne, the active ingredient in Levonelle is levonorgestrel and the tablets contain 1.5mg of this substance. Levonelle needs to be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sex to be effective. It’s around 97 to 99% effective, but not if it’s taken after ovulation. The pill or mini pill has no effect on this treatment.
Another alternative treatment to ellaOne is the copper IUD (the coil). This is over 99% effective up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. Like ellaOne, the copper IUD is effective just before ovulation. Unlike the morning after pill, the copper IUD can act as a long term contraceptive after use and it does not prevent ovulation, it prevents fertilisation. You’ll have to visit your doctor or your local family planning clinic to get the copper IUD fitted and you can keep it for 5-10 years. The coil is the most effective type of emergency contraception and it can be a great alternative for people who cannot take the morning after pill.
Frequently asked questions
Where can I buy ellaOne?
ellaOne is an over the counter medication and is available from most pharmacies. If you would like to buy ellaOne without having a face-to-face conversation, then it is available from reputable online pharmacies such as ZAVA. You will need to fill out a medical questionnaire to make sure ellaOne is suitable for you.
Can you get ellaOne on the NHS?
Yes, ellaOne is available on the NHS. You will need to have a conversation with a doctor or pharmacist in order to check that ellaOne is suitable for you.
Can you get ellaOne over the counter?
Yes, ellaOne is an over the counter medication and is available from most pharmacies or reputable online doctors, such as ZAVA.
How long after taking ellaOne should I do a pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests are normally able to detect pregnancy 21 days (3 weeks) after unprotected sex. If you want to use a pregnancy test to confirm whether ellaOne has worked you should wait at least this long.
What is the difference between ellaOne and Levonelle?
ellaOne and Levonelle work in the same way but contain different active ingredients. ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate, while Levonelle contains levonorgestrel. ellaOne can also be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, whereas Levonelle is only effective up to 72 hours (3 days) after.
Will ellaOne affect my fertility in the future?
Your fertility should not be affected by taking ellaOne, even if it’s been taken more than once in a short period. However, you should avoid using emergency contraception often as it’s much safer and more effective to use condoms or other methods of contraception regularly.
Can ellaOne delay your period?
Yes, it is possible for a morning after pill like ellaOne to cause a delay in your period or cause it to arrive earlier than expected. There is no need to worry if your period is a few days late or early. However, if your period is more than 7 days late or if you experience unusual bleeding after taking ellaOne, you should speak to your doctor and take a pregnancy test.
Can ellaOne cause weight gain?
It is possible that you may gain some weight after taking ellaOne, although this is typically from water retention. It is also possible that ellaOne can cause an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. ellaOne does not directly cause weight gain from body fat.
Do you bleed after taking ellaOne?
In some cases, you may experience irregular bleeding after using ellaOne. If you’re not sure whether any bleeding is from your period or not, you can take a pregnancy test as long as it is at least 21 days (3 weeks) since you had unprotected sex.
Can ellaOne cause mood swings?
ellaOne contains hormones which may affect your mood, and mood swings are a common side effect. This normally goes away after a few days.
How long does ellaOne stay in your system?
ellaOne will normally stay in your body for up to 5 days after it is taken. Everybody’s body is different, though, and will absorb ellaOne at slightly different rates.
Does ellaOne stop sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
No, ellaOne is an emergency contraceptive and will only prevent pregnancy. It offers no protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should use alternative contraceptives such as condoms in order to prevent STIs.
Does ellaOne cause stomach pain?
Some people have reported stomach pain after using ellaOne. This is often quite mild and goes away within a few days. If the pain becomes unmanageable or does not go away, you should speak to your doctor.
Do I need a prescription for ellaOne?
If you’re aged 16 or over, you’ll be able to buy the emergency contraceptive pill at pharmacies in person or online without a prescription. We have a team of doctors who will review all the information you give us and if ellaOne is suitable for you, you can buy the treatment from ZAVA and we will send it to you. It can also be bought over the counter in most pharmacies.
How often can you take the morning after pill?
You can take EllaOne, Levonelle or generic Levonelle (levonorgestrel) more than once per month. However, you cannot take Levonelle and EllaOne in the same menstrual cycle, if taken within the last 7 days. You should not rely on the morning after pill as a regular form of contraception against pregnancy.
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 24 May 2023
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You might need emergency contraception if you’ve recently had unprotected sex and want to reduce your risk of getting pregnant. ZAVA offers a morning after pill service, which includes a variety of options.