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Choosing an Emergency Contraceptive

There are two forms of emergency contraception: emergency contraceptive pills (the morning-after pill) or the IUD (intrauterine device). Choosing the correct one is dependent on several factors and the below questionnaire might be helpful in giving you an idea of the best option for you.


When did the unprotected sex occur?

Date Picker

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraceptive pills are widely used across the world. Some are available over the counter, others on prescription only. Even if you think you are a 100% suitable to take an emergency contraceptive pill and want to buy it over the counter, a pharmacist or nurse will still ask you medical questions beforehand. The medical questions will help them determine if it is safe for you to take your chosen emergency contraceptive. If you feel uncomfortable visiting a pharmacist or nurse, you can order emergency contraception online, however it is important to bear in mind that the efficacy of emergency contraception is dependent on how soon you take it after unprotected sex.

The emergency contraceptive pill Levonelle is suitable if you can take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. If it's been more than 72 hours since you've had unprotected sex, then the alternative option is ellaOne, which can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. Both are more effective if taken as soon as possible after sex as possible. Neither is effective if you are already pregnant, and neither can be used as an on-going form of birth control or pregnancy prevention.

Choose an emergency contraceptive


An IUD is effective if inserted within 120 hours after unprotected sex has occurred. It may be more difficult to choose an IUD simply because insertion requires a medical procedure which can only be performed by a specially trained doctor.

The IUD is inserted in the uterus and works by releasing copper into the womb environment to influence the menstrual cycle. The main benefit of the IUD as emergency contraception is that once it has been inserted it can provide effective contraceptive cover for a number of years, depending on your individual situation. Although anybody can have the IUD fitted, it's mostly recommended to women who have already had children.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

Which emergency contraceptive pill is better?

It is debatable whether Levonelle or ellaOne is better than the other. ellaOne does last for longer, and there is evidence that during the first three days after unprotected sex it can prevent marginally more pregnancies than Levonelle. However, ellaOne is a newer medication, and has therefore not undergone as many trials as Levonelle has.

  • Has been available for longer and has therefore more been clinically tested more, and the long term effects are known
  • Effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex
  • Minimal side effects
  • 95% effective if taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex
  • Has a 72 hour window
  • Not effective as on-going birth control
  • Effectiveness reduces the later you take it
  • Can be taken up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex, giving you more time to take it
  • May be more effective than Levonelle
  • The effectiveness of ellaOne remains almost 100% for the entire five day window it can be taken in
  • New emergency contraception, therefore little knowledge about long-term effects. Fewer medical trials performed.
  • Can effect regular contraceptive pill, thus increasing risk of pregnancy if additional protection is not used initially after taking it
  • Not to be used as on-going birth control

If you are in any way unsure about which emergency contraception is best for you, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medication that you think might affect the efficacy of your chosen emergency contraception, do not hesitate to contact one of our trained doctors online, who can help you choose the correct form of emergency contraception.

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