Levonelle is a type of emergency contraceptive often referred to as the morning after pill. You can take Levonelle if you’ve had unprotected sex and would like to prevent pregnancy. It contains the active ingredient levonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel is a synthetic (man made) type of progestogen which is a synthetic hormone. Progestogens mimic the hormone progesterone that is found naturally in your body.
Levonelle is effective up to 72 hours (3 days) after having sex. If it’s been longer than 72 hours, EllaOne might be more suitable for you.
You can take Levonelle if you are on other types of birth control, like the contraceptive pill.
Levonelle does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Levonorgestrel works by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg, a process known as ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs halfway through your menstrual cycle, or roughly 2 weeks before your period. Levonorgestrel is not effective if you’re taking it after ovulation.
Everyone’s menstrual cycle is different, so it’s a good idea to track what stage of your cycle you are in. If you have ovulated, it’s best to use the copper intrauterine device (IUD) as a form of emergency contraception. You can get this fitted at a sexual health or family planning clinic.
- Take 1 Levonelle tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Ideally try to take it within 12 hours after sex as this is when Levonelle is most effective.
- You can take it a maximum of 72 hours after sex.
- You can take the tablet with or without food.
You can use Levonelle more than once in your menstrual cycle but this can cause irregular periods.
If you throw up or have diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking a Levonelle tablet, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or sexual health clinic. You’ll need to take another tablet as your body will not have absorbed the first one you took.
Levonelle is not designed to be used as a regular method of contraception. There are other types of regular contraception that are much more effective.
Levonelle can affect your period by making it slightly earlier or later than normal. If your period is more than 5 days late or you experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding, speak to your doctor. You should also do a pregnancy test to check if you are pregnant. If you have taken Levonelle and find out you are pregnant, speak to your doctor.
How quickly does Levonelle work?
Levonelle can work to stop ovulation within a few hours of taking it unless you throw up or have diarrhoea within 3 hours. If this happens, your body will not have had time to absorb the medication and you will need to take another tablet.
How long does Levonelle stay in your system?
Levonelle can delay ovulation for around 3 days after you take it. This means you may come on your period later than usual, but usually no more than 5 days late. This does not mean you are protected from pregnancy during this period. Even if you are not ovulating after taking levonelle, you can still become pregnant if you have unprotected sex.
If you do have unprotected sex after you’ve taken Levonelle, you’ll need to take another tablet.
Levonelle is effective in preventing around 84% of potential pregnancies when taken within 72 hours. The sooner you take Levonelle, the more effective it will be.
Remember that Levonelle is a type of emergency contraception, so it’s best to have a regular method of contraception if you do not want to get pregnant.
You may feel some side effects when taking Levonelle. These are usually temporary and will disappear within a few hours.
Very common side effects of Levonelle are:
- nausea (feeling sick)
- irregular bleeding
- pain in your lower abdomen
Some common side effects of Levonelle are:
- vomiting (being sick)
- abnormal periods
- breast tenderness
If you think you’ve had an allergic reaction after taking Levonelle, call 999 immediately. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- severe itching
- swelling of the face, throat, eyes or lips
- difficulty breathing
You can read the patient information leaflet for further information on side effects.
You can take Levonelle if you are a woman over the age of 16. If you are under 16, speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or sexual health clinic first.
You should not use Levonelle if you are allergic to levonorgestrel or other ingredients in the tablet.
Speak to your doctor before taking Levonelle if you have:
- a history of liver problems
- ever had an ectopic pregnancy (where the baby grows outside the womb)
- a disease that affects your small bowel such as Crohn’s disease
- a condition called salpingitis where your fallopian tubes are inflamed
Your doctor may suggest using another type of emergency contraception if these conditions affect you. They’ll guide you towards the best treatment choice for you.
Levonelle can interfere with how other medications work. Some medicines can also stop Levonelle from working. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking:
- epilepsy treatment such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, or carbamazepine
- HIV treatment, such as ritonavir
- tuberculosis treatment, such as rifampicin
- antifungal medication like griseofulvin
- St John’s wort, a herbal remedy used to treat low moods
- ciclosporin, a medicine that suppresses the immune system
You may need an alternative method of emergency contraception.
If Levonelle is not suitable for you, you can take EllaOne. EllaOne is another type of morning after pill that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Like Levonelle, EllaOne is most effective if you take it as soon as possible.
You can also get a copper IUD (intrauterine device) fitted. This is a non hormonal contraceptive that must be fitted by a doctor or nurse. The copper IUD can also be used as long term contraception. Speak to your doctor or sexual health clinic to find out more information.
How do I know if Levonelle has worked?
The only way to know for sure if Levonelle or any form of emergency contraception has worked is by waiting for your next period. If your period arrives when it should, you are most likely not pregnant. If your period is late, you can take a pregnancy test.
Can you drink alcohol after taking Levonelle?
Yes, you can drink alcohol after taking Levonelle. Alcohol is not known to cause any interactions but if you get side effects like nausea and vomiting, it is best to avoid alcohol until you feel better.
What if I vomit after taking Levonelle?
If you vomit after taking Levonelle and it has been less than 3 hours since you took the tablet, you will need to get another. Speak to a pharmacist, doctor, or sexual health clinic so you can get another dose.
If you vomit after taking Levonelle and it has been longer than 3 hours, your body will have absorbed the medication and it is not recommended to take another tablet unless you have unprotected sex again. A known side effect of Levonelle is vomiting, but this should pass within a few days.
Can Levonelle delay your period?
Yes, Levonelle can make your period come earlier or later than usual. Speak to your doctor and take a pregnancy test if your period is delayed for longer than 5 days.
Can you take Levonelle while breastfeeding?
You can take Levonelle if you are breastfeeding but it’s best to take it after you have breastfed your baby. Leave at least an 8 hour gap between taking Levonelle and breastfeeding your baby again.
Can Levonelle cause spotting?
Yes, a very common side effect of Levonelle is irregular bleeding. This is usually not a cause for concern but speak to your doctor if you are bleeding heavily or your period is very painful.
Is Levonelle safe?
Yes, Levonelle is safe to take but can sometimes cause some mild side effects. As you are only taking Levonelle as a single dose, it is not likely to cause any long term effects. There is no evidence that Levonelle will affect your ability to have a baby in the future.
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: 21 Nov 2022
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Emergency contraception (morning after pill, IUD) National Health Service [accessed 31 August 2022]
Levonelle, Summary of Product Characteristics EMC [accessed 31 August 2022]
Emergency contraception, Sexwise [accessed 31 August 2022]
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.