Myth busting emergency contraception, young woman with long brown hair sitting on a sofa placing a pill into her mouth. She has a glass of water in her other hand | e-Surgery

What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception is a pill that a woman can take shortly after unprotected sex to decrease their chances of pregnancy. It is also referred to as the morning-after pill. There are two main types of emergency contraception available on the market. Levonelle contains the active ingredient Levonorgestrel which works as it is a synthetic imitation of the hormone progesterone. This stops the egg from being able to embed itself into the lining of the uterus and is effective for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

EllaOne contains ulipristal acetate, a drug that stops progesterone functioning. This also stops the egg from implanting in the womb. EllaOne is more expensive but has the advantage of being effective for up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse (find out more about the differences between EllaOne and Levonelle).

Emergency Contraception can only be taken the morning after

The main rule of thumb when taking emergency contraception is: as soon as possible. However, if that isn’t possible Levonelle is 95% effective for the first 12 hours and then reduces by 58% after 48 hours after sex. Whereas EllaOne is effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.

If you are unable to take the pill after 120 hours since having unprotected sex and emergency IUD can be inserted up to five days afterwards.

Emergency Contraception increases your risk of breast cancer

A 2002 study looked at the link between oral contraceptives and the risk of breast cancer. The data suggests that the risk of breast cancer did not increase when hormonal contraception was consumed. This was later investigated in a 2018 study which came to the same conclusion. It was also determined that the familial risk did also not increase when taking the pill.

Emergency Contraception affects fertility

Emergency contraception is generally very safe to take. There has been no proof that taking the morning after pill will affect future fertility. However, it will only protect you if you take it after each episode of having unprotected intercourse. There is also a belief that if you take emergency contraception you are then protected for the rest of the month, this is not true. If you are engaging in sexual activity after taking the pill then it is recommended that you use a barrier method, such as a condom.

Emergency Contraception is effective for everyone

According to a 2016 study, the morning after pill is less effective in women over 80kg. The most effective form of emergency for women who weigh over 80kg is the copper IUD which can be placed within 5 days after engaging in unprotected sex.

Emergency Contraception is no different from an abortion

Emergency contraception works completely differently from the abortion pill. The morning after pill works by preventing the egg being able to imbed itself into the lining of the womb. Therefore, a pregnancy does not occur. The morning after pill will not work if someone is already pregnant. The abortion pill contains a completely different drug called mifepristone which induces an abortion by preventing the release of hormones necessary for maintaining the pregnancy. As a result, the uterus contracts and expels the pregnancy.

You need to see a doctor to get the morning after pill

You will not need to have a face-to-face interaction with a doctor or nurse to receive the morning after pill. Online services such as e-Surgery can offer Levonelle or EllaOne for a small fee. If you are sexually active it may be a good idea to order emergency contraception in case of failed contraception or unprotected sex.

Further Reading

  1. EllaOne Package Information Leaflet |
  2. Emergency Contraception | National Institution For Health And Care Excellence
  3. Intrauterine Devices (IUD) | healthline
  4. Emergency Contraception: Dispelling The Myths And Misperceptions | WHO