Picture of hands passing a package of ellaOne to each other
Picture of hands passing a package of ellaOne to each other

All there is to know about ellaOne®

Condom split? Missed pill? Caught in the moment? Whatever the reason, realising that you’ve had unprotected sex and could be at risk of pregnancy is never a fun moment. Don’t feel alone – plenty of people have been in this situation before.

To reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, it is wise to seek emergency contraception as soon as possible. You can either choose to take the morning after pill, such as ellaOne®, or have a copper IUD fitted. Any emergency contraceptive is more effective the sooner you use it: so let’s get down to the details…

What is ellaOne®?

ellaOne® is an oral emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning after pill) containing ulipristal acetate. It is available in most pharmacies and can be bought online for collection in store.

No other morning after pill is more effective than ellaOne®. If you have had unprotected sex, taking ellaOne® can prevent unplanned pregnancy. ellaOne® can be effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex has taken place, but like all morning after pills it is more effective the sooner you take it.

ellaOne® is intended for use in the case of emergency it is not meant to be a replacement for a regular method of contraception.

Where can I buy ellaOne®?

Pack of ellaOne
Pack of ellaOne

ellaOne® is available to buy from most pharmacies, including McCabes, Hickeys and Lloyds. To make things even easier, you can type your home or work address into the search engine and we will direct you to your nearest pharmacy.

The emergency contraception pill is available free of charge to medical card holders.

Please enable your location in browser or enter your current location to find an open pharmacy close to you.

How does ellaOne® work? 

ellaOne® works by delaying ovulation so that any sperm in the female reproductive system cannot find an egg to fertilise, and so no pregnancy can occur.

When you have unprotected sex, sperm travel from the vagina, through the cervix and up the fallopian tubes where they wait for an egg. ellaOne® helps prevent or delay ovulation until all the sperm have died (5 days), so there is no egg for them to fertilise and no pregnancy can take place.

It is very important that you take ellaOne® as soon as possible after unprotected sex for it to be most effective.

If ovulation has already taken place, no morning after pill will be effective. It is very hard to know when you are ovulating as your cycle can change from month to month. By taking ellaOne® as soon as possible after unprotected sex, you reduce the risk of ovulating in that time.

The morning after pill only works by preventing ovulation, it can not cause an abortion and it will not have any effect in a case where an egg has already been fertilised.

How effective is ellaOne®?

No other morning after pill is more effective than ellaOne® .

In a clinical trial, ellaOne® has been shown to reduce the rate of pregnancy to just 9 in 1000 when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

You can take ellaOne® up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex, but it is more effective the sooner you take it.

What to expect after taking ellaOne®?

ellaOne® is generally well tolerated but, like any medicine, some people will experience side effects after taking ellaOne®. The most common side effects typically only affect up to 1 in 10 people. For more information about potential side effects, please see this article.

It is important to remember that ellaOne® is only effective for a specific instance of unprotected sex. Taking ellaOne® will not protect you for future occasions of unprotected sex. Your fertility will return to normal very quickly, and you should use a condom until your next period arrives, even if you are using a hormonal method of contraception like the pill.

Mild side effects may occur, but generally there is no reason that taking ellaOne® should interfere with what you had planned for that day or the evening afterwards. You can drink alcohol after using ellaOne®.

What are the side effects of ellaOne®?

Pharmacist Deborah Evans** says, “like all medicines, the morning after pill can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them, and most people will not experience any side effects at all. Your pharmacist can help you if you have any concerns.”

The most common side effects (which will only affect up to 1 in 10 people) include headaches, stomach pain, breast tenderness, mood changes and feeling nauseous. For more information, please take a look at our guide to the potential side effects of ellaOne®.

How do you take ellaOne®?

Woman looking down
Woman looking down

ellaOne® is a single pill that should be swallowed with water. You can take ellaOne at any time of day or night.

If you vomit within three hours of taking ellaOne®, you should contact your pharmacist or GP as you may need to take another pill.

When should you take ellaOne®?

Despite the nickname ‘morning after pill’, you can use ellaOne® at any time of day or night, and it can still be effective for up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.

ellaOne® is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex has taken place. ellaOne® can be taken at any time of the menstrual cycle, but if you have ovulated then it may not be effective – however this is very difficult to predict, so speak to your pharmacist who will be able to advise you further.

Who can take ellaOne®?

When you go to get ellaOne®, the pharmacist (or other healthcare professional) will ask you a number of questions to check that this medicine is suitable for you. If you are purchasing ellaOne® online, you will also have to answer these questions.

ellaOne® may not be suitable if…

  • You are allergic to ulipristal acetate, or any other ellaOne® ingredients.

  • If you have certain medical conditions or are on some medicines.

  • You are already pregnant. If there is a chance you might be pregnant (e.g. your period is late) then you should take a test before taking ellaOne®.

If you are breastfeeding, you should not breastfeed for one week after taking ellaOne®. You can continue to express in order to stimulate and maintain production, but this milk should be thrown away.

What are the ingredients in ellaOne®?

The active ingredient in ellaOne® is ulipristal acetate. Each tablet contains 30 milligrams of ulipristal acetate. This is what postpones ovulation.

The other ingredients in ellaOne® are lactose monohydrate, povidone, croscarmellose sodium and magnesium stearate.

What medicines could ellaOne® interact with?

The healthcare professional who gives you ellaOne® will ask if you are taking any other medicines, you should also tell them if you’ve used medicines without a prescription or any herbal medicines. This is because some medicines can prevent ellaOne® from working properly.

If you have used any of these medicines in the last month, ellaOne® might not be suitable for you:

  • Medicines to treat epilepsy (including primidone, phenobarbital, phenytoin, fosphenytoine, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine and barbiturates)

  • Medicines to treat tuberculosis (including rifampicin and rifabutin)

  • Treatment for HIV (ritonavir, efavirenz, nevirapine)

  • Medicine for fungal infections (griseofulvin)

  • Herbal remedies containing St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before using ellaOne® when you use (or have recently used) any of the medicines stated above. They may recommend you use another type of emergency contraceptive, like the copper intrauterine device: find out more about that here.

Can’t find an answer to your question about ellaOne®? Try our ellaOne® FAQs page.

**Deborah Evans does not endorse any medicinal brands or products

Photo of Samuelle Yohou
Samuelle Yohou
Medical Manager
Medically reviewed in February 2021.