Emergency Contraception (Morning-after Pill, IUD) - GK

26 April, 2021  |  Raja


After having unprotected sex, emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception can also be used in case conventional contraception methods such as condoms or birth control pills have failed to work.

However, emergency contraception does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases and is also not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Thus using condoms during sex is still recommended as the safest sex practice and may even be used in tandem with other contraceptive measures. But for those instances where condom use was either overlooked or failed to work, emergency contraception is the best option to prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring.

There are two main types of emergency contraceptive methods. The first one is the emergency contraceptive pill, also known as the ‘morning-after’ pill. The second method is to install the intrauterine device (IUD) in the uterus directly.

There are two varieties of the emergency contraceptive pill. One needs to be taken within 3 days after having unprotected sex (Levonelle), and the other needs to be taken within 5 days (ellaOne) for it to be effective.

An IUD can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex. However, the earlier the emergency contraceptive can be used, the better. An IUD can safely be left inside the person’s body and is designed to be used as a regular contraceptive for future sexual intercourse.

While there are no severe side effects to using either form of emergency contraceptive, the pill can cause a mild stomach ache or a headache, and an IUD can cause some discomfort or pain. If either contraceptive causes any high degree of nausea, vomiting, or pain, consult with your doctor or a licensed medical professional or clinic as you may need to adjust your dose or have a new IUD fitted.

The emergency contraceptive pill comes in two types.



Levonelle is a pill containing levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of progesterone—a hormone naturally produced in the ovaries. The science behind taking the drug is that it prevents or delays ovulation—the process by which a person’s body releases an egg for fertilization. Levonelle needs to be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Keep in mind that this pill won’t interfere with your regular contraception method, and using a condom in tandem with the drug is still recommended as the safest sex practice to prevent any unwanted pregnancies from occurring.



ellaOne is the second emergency contraception pill that is widely used. It contains ulipristal acetate, which is a medicine that prevents the hormone progesterone from behaving like it usually should. Like Levonelle, this also works to stop or delay an egg’s release. 

ellaOne needs to be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of having intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Again, like Levonelle, ellaOne is not recommended as a regular method of contraception and is designed to be used in cases where condom use was either absent or if the condom was damaged during intercourse. 

Having sex after taking either pill won’t prevent pregnancy, and neither pill is intended to be used as a main source of contraceptive. However, if necessary, either pill may be used more than once under the same menstrual cycle.

Who Can Use The Pill?

The pills are designed to be used by women of all ages, even underage women who may have had unprotected sex with their partners. The pill can also be used by women who are unable to use normal forms of hormonal birth control pills or the birth control patch. It can also be taken by those who are actively breastfeeding a child. While some of the pill contents may stream into the breast milk, it will not adversely affect either the person taking the pill or the baby.

The emergency contraceptive does not induce any hormonal imbalance or change. Instead, it prevents the body from releasing an egg during ovulation. Emergency contraception can be used by anyone who may have otherwise been adversely affected by the change in hormones induced by the normal form of the birth control pill.

However, suppose a person has severe allergies, asthma, or is taking medication that may adversely interact with the emergency contraception, they may not be able to use the pills as intended.

Medication may have an adverse reaction with the emergency contraception pill, including HIV, epilepsy, tuberculosis, and acid reflux medication (such as omeprazole). Some uncommonly prescribed antibiotics (such as rifampicin or rifabutin) might also cause a reaction. 

Please consult your doctor or a licensed medical professional if you are using any of the above-listed medications.