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    What’s the difference between levonorgestrel and ellaOne?

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      Reviewed by our clinical team

      Two types of morning after pill

      In the UK, there are two types of morning after pill: Levonorgestrel (branded as Levonelle) and ellaOne. Both are available over the counter in pharmacies, as well as in contraception clinics and sexual health clinics. You can also get both types from Online Doctor.

      Both these morning after pills work in a similar way, and are really effective at preventing pregnancy when they’re taken at the right time. However, there are some differences between the two, which might be important for certain women.

      Key facts about Levonorgestrel/Levonelle

      • Must be taken within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sex 
      • Contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of progesterone, which is thought to stop or delay ovulation 
      • Safe to take when breastfeeding 
      • Can be used more than once in the same cycle  
      • Second tablet required if you vomit within two hours of taking levonorgestrel

      Key facts about ellaOne 

      • Must be taken within five days of unprotected sex 
      • Contains ulipristal acetate, which affects how progesterone works and stops or delays ovulation 
      • Shouldn’t be taken when breastfeeding 
      • Can be used more than once in the same cycle 
      • Second tablet required if you vomit within three hours of taking ellaOne 

      Which is more effective, levonorgestrel or ellaOne?

      It’s generally accepted that ellaOne is more effective at preventing pregnancy than Levonorgestrel. However, the most effective form of emergency contraception is the emergency IUD or coil – learn more by reading the section below “What are the benefits of the emergency IUD?”. 

      What is the best morning after pill for women over 70kg?

      Levonorgestrel is thought to be less effective in women who weigh over 70kg or who have a BMI over 26. The recommendation for women over this weight or BMI may be to take two levonorgestrel tablets, or one ellaOne tablet. The other alternative is to have an emergency IUD or coil fitted. 

      Need emergency contraception?

      Go to morning after pill service


      What is the best morning after pill for women with HIV or epilepsy? 

      Certain medications interact negatively with the morning after pill, including those for HIV, epilepsy and tuberculosis. This is why it’s important to tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you’re taking any specific medications when you visit them to get the morning after pill.

      For women taking these kinds of medications, ellaOne can’t be prescribed, but levonorgestrel may be given – usually in a higher dose than normal. 

      What is the best morning after pill for women who are breastfeeding?

      The effects of ellaOne during breastfeeding aren’t known so it’s advised that women who are breastfeeding use levonorgestrel. 

      How should I take routine contraception after taking levonorgestrel or ellaOne?

      If you’ve been using routine contraception like the combined pill, there are a few things to bear in mind after taking emergency contraception. If you’re confused about what to do, make sure you speak to a doctor or nurse – and, if in doubt, use condoms! 

      Levonorgestrel 

      After taking levonorgestrel, you should take your next contraceptive pill (or use a new patch or ring) within 12 hours, and then continue using your contraception as normal.

      However, for the next few days you’ll need to use barrier contraception (e.g. condoms) during sex:

      • For seven days if you’re using the combined pill, patch or ring, or if you’ve had the implant or injection 
      • For nine days for the combined pill Qlaira 
      • For two days for the progestogen-only pill (although the Patient Information Leaflet for your pill may recommend longer)

      ellaOne

      After taking ellaOne, you should wait five days and then restart your contraception, following the same rules, regarding barrier contraception, listed above. In the five-day interval, make sure you use barrier contraception. 

      What is the emergency IUD and what are its benefits?

      The emergency IUD is a small, T-shaped device made from plastic and copper that’s designed to be inserted into the uterus. Once inside your uterus it can be left in for several years. It works by releasing copper, which is a contraceptive and prevents pregnancy.

      You can have an IUD fitted up to five days after unprotected sex, usually at a contraception clinic or sexual health clinic. Once it’s been inserted, you can keep it in and use it as ongoing contraception. 

      The main advantage of the IUD is that it is the most effective form of emergency contraception. 

      Where can I get levonorgestrel and ellaOne?

      You can get the morning after pill for free from contraception clinics and sexual health or GUM clinics, as well as some GP surgeries, walk-in centres, minor injuries units and pharmacies. You can also buy it over the counter in pharmacies. 

      An easy alternative is to order the morning after pill through Online Doctor. When you make your order we’ll ask a few questions that will help our in-house clinicians decide which pill is best for you. Learn more here. 

      References

      https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/emergency-contraception/
      https://bnf.nice.org.uk/treatment-summary/emergency-contraception.html  

      ellaOne Levonelle (branded levonorgestrel Levonorgestrel Intrauterine device (IUD/Copper coil
      Name ellaOne Levonelle (branded levonorgestrel) Levonorgestrel Intrauterine device (IUD/Copper coil)
      Active ingredient Ulipristal Acetate Levonorgestrel Levonorgestrel Copper
      How it works Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Releases copper which stops an egg implanting in your womb
      When to take it Within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected sex Within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sex Within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sex Should be inserted within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected sex
      Effectiveness 98-99% 97.4-99.4% 97.4-99.4% More than 99%
      Who can use it Most women Most women.

      Women taking certain medications, weighing 70kg+ or with a BMI of 26+ might be asked to take a double dose
      Most women.

      Women weighing 70kg+ or with a BMI of 26+ might be asked to take a double dose
      Most women
      Possibly not suitable for Women taking certain medications Women taking certain medications Women taking certain medications Women with:
      • unexplained bleeding between periods
      • womb or cervix problems
      • An untreated STI or pelvic infection
      Price £33 We offer the generic version of Levonelle, Levonorgestrel.

      It's £15.99 for a single dose, £24.99 for a double dose
      £15.99 for a single dose, £24.99 for a double dose Free on the NHS
      Where to get it Online Doctor You can get the generic version of Levonelle, Levonorgestrel from Online Doctor Online Doctor Local sexual health clinic or GP surgery
      Protection against STIs No No No No
      Protection against pregnancy in the future No No No Protection from pregnancy for 5-10 years (depending on the type)
      ellaOne Levonelle (branded levonorgestrel Levonorgestrel Intrauterine device (IUD/Copper coil
      Name ellaOne Levonelle (branded levonorgestrel) Levonorgestrel Intrauterine device (IUD/Copper coil)
      Active ingredient Ulipristal Acetate Levonorgestrel Levonorgestrel Copper
      How it works Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Stops or delays the release of an egg (ovulation) Releases copper which stops an egg implanting in your womb
      When to take it: Within 5 days (120 hours) of having unprotected sex Within 3 days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex Within 3 days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex Should be inserted within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected sex
      Effectiveness 98-99% 97.4-99.4% 97.4-99.4% More than 99%
      Who can use it Most women Most women.

      Women taking certain medications, weighing 70kg+ or with a BMI of 26+ might be asked to take a double dose
      Most women.

      Women weighing 70kg+ or with a BMI of 26+ might be asked to take a double dose
      Most women
      Possibly not suitable for Women taking certain medications Women taking certain medications Women taking certain medications Women with:
      • unexplained bleeding between periods
      • womb or cervix problems
      • An untreated STI or pelvic infection
      Price £33 We offer the generic version of Levonelle, Levonorgestrel. It's £15.99 for a single dose, £24.99 for a double dose £15.99 for a single dose, £24.99 for a double dose Free on the NHS
      Where to get it Online Doctor You can get the generic version of Levonelle, Levonorgestrel from Online Doctor Online Doctor Local sexual health clinic or GP surgery
      Protection against STIs No No No No
      Protection against pregnancy in the future No No No Protection from pregnancy for 5-10 years (depending on the type)

      Authors and editors

      • Reviewed and updated by

        Dr Mitra Dutt
        GMC number: 4569536
        Date reviewed: 26th October 2021

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