Sperm can survive inside the body for up to five days. The morning after pill only provides the most powerful protection for up to three to five days post-sex. Having unprotected sex after taking your contraception means the sperm may outlast the medicine’s most effective window, and this may lead to pregnancy.
How to get the morning after pill in advance
The morning after pill is a type of emergency contraception. If you’ve had unprotected sex, the morning after pill can be taken to prevent pregnancy.
While it’s more common to visit the pharmacist as and when the contraceptive pill is needed, it’s also possible to get the morning after pill in advance so you have a supply on hand for emergencies. This is particularly useful if:
- You live in a remote area where the emergency contraception pill isn’t readily available
- You’re going on holiday and won’t have access to your local NHS service
- You’re worried that your first form of contraception may fail and want to take extra precautions against pregnancy
At The Independent Pharmacy, we offer two types of emergency contraception: EllaOne and Levonorgestrel, both of which are available with discreet delivery and only require a short online consultation before purchase.
Where to get the morning after pill in advance
A GP or sexual health/contraception clinic should be able to provide you with the morning after pill in advance. To find the nearest service to you, use the NHS website.
If you’d prefer to have your contraception delivered straight to your door, The Independent Pharmacy offers:
EllaOne — the newest emergency contraceptive tablet available over-the-counter from pharmacies, without the need for a prescription. It can be taken up to 120 hours (five days) to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if there has been a contraceptive failure, such as a split condom. EllaOne is thought to remain up to 98% effective, even after up to five days.
Levonorgestrel (generic Levonelle) — Levonelle is the original 'morning-after pill' that can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. It is now available as the generic drug Levonorgestrel 1.5mg. It is a single dose, a hormonal emergency contraceptive tablet that can be purchased online as an advanced supply for women to keep on hand in case of a contraceptive accident or failure.
How to use the morning after pill correctly
To ensure your morning after pill is as effective as possible, you must take it as soon as possible. With each day that passes, the medication is less likely to prevent pregnancy. However, this period varies between contraceptive types:
- Within the first 24 hours: 95% effective
- 24 to 48 hours: 85% effective
- 48 to 72 hours: 58% effective
- 98% effective if taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after sex
- If it has been longer than 120 hours, you should not take EllaOne (see your GP to discuss emergency contraception)
Can I use the morning after pill as normal contraception?
The morning after pill shouldn't be used as a normal contraceptive. It’s designed for one-off use when your contraception fails (e.g. the condom breaks) or you have unprotected sex. It’s also important to remember that emergency contraception won’t protect you from STIs or STDs, either.
The morning after pill can be taken more than once during a menstrual cycle. However, they’re less effective than standard contraception, so where possible, it’s best to rely on alternative contraceptive methods.
Alternatives to the morning after pill
There are plenty of alternatives to the morning after pill. Some may only prevent pregnancy, while others protect against STIs and STDs also. Contraceptive alternatives include:
- The combined pill
- The progestogen-only, or “mini” pill
- The implant
- The injection
- The IUD (copper coil)
- The IUS (hormonal coil)
- Diaphragms and caps
- Fertility awareness methods
For more information on contraception, check out our contraception advice page.