How to Use the Ella Morning-After Pill

    If you’ve had unprotected sex within the last five days and want to reduce your risk of becoming pregnant, Ella is a safe, highly effective option.

    Ella is a morning-after pill that works for up to five days (120 hours) after you have unprotected sex. Used correctly, it can significantly reduce your risk of becoming pregnant, even if you and your partner did not use a condom or any other form of protection when you had sex.

    Below, we’ve explained how to use Ella, as well as several things to be aware of before you use this medication.

    Before You Use Ella

    Ella is a prescription medication in the United States, meaning you’ll need to speak to a doctor before you can purchase it for your own personal use.

    You do not need to have recently had unprotected sex in order to buy Ella. If you’re concerned about becoming pregnant from unprotected sex, it’s a good idea to buy Ella ahead of time and keep it in a safe location in the event you need it in the future.

    Ella is an ideal form of emergency contraception if:

    • Your partner does not wear a condom, or the condom breaks or slips off during sex.

    • You recently forgot to take one or several of your regular birth control pills, or can’t remember if you used your regular birth control pill.

    • You took your progestin mini-pill earlier or later than usual, potentially reducing its effectiveness as a form of contraception.

    • Your body mass index (BMI) is below 30. If your BMI is higher than 30, an alternative method of emergency contraception, such as the copper IUD, is recommended.

    Studies of Ella show that it’s both safe to use and effective for women of any age. If you have any concerns about becoming pregnant after unprotected sex, or after another contraceptive fails, taking Ella can be an effective way to prevent pregnancy.

    Depending on the state you live in, Ella might be available from your local pharmacy. We offer Ella online after a medical consultation via an online assessment, allowing you to purchase it easily and discreetly without having to visit your family doctor.

    How Effective is Ella?

    Used properly following the instructions below, Ella reduces your chance of becoming pregnant after unprotected sex by 85 percent, according to organizations like Planned Parenthood.

    This does not mean that 15 percent of women who use Ella become pregnant. Instead, it means that 85 percent of pregnancies that would have otherwise occurred are prevented in women who use Ella after unprotected sex.

    According to data from the World Health Organization, 98.8 percent of women who properly use Ella or other ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptives (the main active ingredient in Ella) do not become pregnant.

    In short, your risk of pregnancy after using Ella is approximately 1.2 percent if you take the medication within five days (120 hours) of the time you had unprotected sex.

    Although you can use Ella up to five days after you have unprotected sex, Ella is only effective for one act of unprotected sex. If you use Ella and have unprotected sex again, you will not be protected against becoming pregnant.

    How to Use Ella

    Ella is an easy medication to use. There’s only one pill to take, meaning you don’t need to worry about taking multiple pills after a certain amount of time has passed — a common problem with older emergency contraceptives.

    To use Ella, take the single pill within five days (120 hours) of the time you had unprotected sex.

    Although Ella is effective if taken within 120 hours of the time you had sex, it’s best to take the pill as early as possible after you become aware of your pregnancy risk. In general, the sooner you take Ella, the more effective it will be at preventing you from becoming pregnant.

    You can take Ella at any time of day. It’s safe to use this medication after eating or on an empty stomach. Many women have reported that taking Ella after a small meal can help to reduce the mild risk of nausea that can occur with this medication.

    If more than five days (120 hours) have passed since the time you had unprotected sex, Ella might not be effective as a form of emergency contraception. Instead, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible for expert advice and assistance.

    After You’ve Taken Ella

    After you’ve taken Ella, your body will absorb the active ingredient in the medication and stop your ovaries from releasing an egg.

    This significantly reduces the chance of your partner’s sperm coming into contact with the egg and leading to fertilization. Even if sperm comes into contact with an egg, Ella can prevent the egg from successfully making its way to your uterus to prevent pregnancy.

    There are several things you should be aware of after taking Ella, especially if you use the birth control pill or another form of hormonal contraception.

    Ella and the Birth Control Pill

    First, Ella might interfere with your normal birth control pill. After you use Ella, most birth control pills temporarily become less effective. This is caused by the effects of ulipristal acetate (Ella’s active ingredient) on your body’s production of several important sex hormones.

    Ella can affect combined oral contraceptive pills (COCPs) and progestin-only birth control pills (mini-pills). It’s also possible for your birth control pill to make Ella less effective, meaning you might not get the normal level of protection against pregnancy.

    After taking Ella, you should stop using your regular birth control pill for six days. After six days have passed, you’re free to go back to using your birth control pill like normal, starting from the beginning of the cycle period.

    If you and your partner have sex during this period, it’s important to use a physical barrier form of birth control, such as a condom. Depending on the type of birth control pill you use, you may need to continue using a condom for several days after you start taking your birth control pill.

    Ella and Other Hormonal Contraceptives

    Ella can also interfere with other hormonal contraceptives, such as the birth control patch, ring and injection.

    Ella is not recommended as a first choice of emergency contraceptive if you use any of these forms of hormonal contraception. Alternatives such as the copper IUD or Plan-B One Step are less likely to interfere with these forms of birth control.

    Our guide to your emergency contraception options explains how these options work, as well as how they compare to Ella.

    Ella Side Effects

    Ella does not have any serious side effects or dangerous interactions with other drugs, meaning there’s no need to feel concerned about your health after you take it.

    However, Ella can cause several  minor side effects. These affect a small percentage of women who use the medication. The most common side effect — headaches — is reported in less than 20 percent of all women who use Ella. Side effects of Ella include:

    • Headaches
    • Nausea
    • Abdominal cramps and pain
    • Fatigue and dizziness

    Our complete guide to the side effects of the morning-after pill goes into more detail about how and why these side effects can occur, as well as what you can do to manage them if you notice side effects after using Ella.

    Ella might also affect your period. It’s common, normal and completely safe for your period to start earlier or later than normal after you use Ella. Your period should start within three weeks of the time you used this medication.

    If you don’t get your period within three weeks of the date you used Ella, it’s recommended to take a home pregnancy test to verify that the medication worked effectively.

    Overall, the side effects of Ella are not serious or worth worrying about. They’re generally mild and pass relatively quickly, with the majority of women who use Ella reporting no side effects at all.

    If You Need to Use Ella Again

    Ella is designed for use as an emergency contraceptive; not as a replacement for condoms or a regular birth control pill. You should not use Ella or other emergency contraceptives as a way to avoid using condoms, the pill or any other form of protection.

    If you need to use an emergency contraceptive for a second time before your period starts, it’s safe to use Ella again. In this situation, you must use Ella — do not use Plan B One-Step or any other emergency contraceptive that contains levonorgestrel.

    Although Ella does not affect your long-term health or fertility, it’s not recommended for regular use. If you find yourself using Ella regularly, it’s best to speak to your doctor about using the pill, the ring, the IUD or another more suitable, long-term method of birth control.

    Learn More About Emergency Contraception

    Convenient and highly effective, Ella is one of several emergency contraception options you can use to reduce your risk of becoming pregnant after unprotected sex.

    Other emergency contraception options include progestin-based morning-after pills, which work similarly to Ella, and the copper IUD. Our guide to your emergency contraception options covers both of these in more detail, with information on everything from effectiveness to usage.

    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.