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Birth control is an option for millions of people who are sexually active but do not wish to become pregnant. When contraceptive methods fail, a person may consider taking emergency birth control, commonly known as the morning-after pill. ella is one type of morning-after pill that people could use.

Emergency birth control can help people avoid unplanned pregnancies when other preventive methods prove unsuccessful. The National Survey of Family Growth revealed that between 2011 and 2015, 20% of sexually active females aged 15–44 years used emergency contraception. The National Center for Health Statistics specially tabulated the data, meaning that it created a custom report from multiple datasets.

Other research found that 50% of females using emergency birth control, such as the ella morning-after pill, did so because they had sex without a condom or other barrier method. The research also found that 41% of females worried that their usual method would not work.

Emergency birth control pills can prevent pregnancy. However, these types of pills will not end a pregnancy that has already occurred.

Many different situations can prompt people to consider using emergency birth control, including:

  • having sex without a condom or other barrier method
  • a condom breaking or slipping
  • forgetting to take regular birth control pills

Additionally, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare states that healthcare facilities should offer emergency birth control following sexual assault.

ella, a branded version of ulipristal acetate, is currently the only form of emergency birth control that affects progesterone. It prevents pregnancy by delaying ovulation — the release of an egg from the ovaries.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, emergency birth control pills containing ulipristal acetate are more effective in preventing pregnancy than pills containing either progestin and estrogen or progestin only.

ella is only available with a valid prescription.

ella is a single pill that a person takes orally. Although people refer to it as a “morning-after pill,” it is not necessary to wait until the next morning to take it.

A person should consider speaking with a doctor to obtain a prescription for ella as soon as possible after having sex without a condom or other barrier method. However, it is effective in preventing pregnancy for up to 5 days, or 120 hours.

According to the advocacy group Planned Parenthood, the ella morning-after pill may not work as well for people who weigh over 195 pounds or have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.

Additionally, anyone who knows they are pregnant should not take this medication.

According to Planned Parenthood, those who are breastfeeding should pump and dispose of their milk for 36 hours after they take ella. However, other sources suggest that withholding breastmilk after taking this medication is unnecessary. A person who is breastfeeding may wish to speak with their doctor for further guidance.

People with allergies or severe asthma should check with a doctor before using it.

Certain medications and supplements can decrease the efficacy of ella. These medications include:

Usually, a person’s health insurance or Medicaid offers coverage for emergency contraception. This means that individuals may be able to receive the ella pill for free.

However, if a person does not have health insurance or if their medical insurance does not cover this, ella generally costs around $50. Prices may vary between pharmacies and drugstores.

A person cannot get the ella pill without a prescription. Some individuals request a prescription from a doctor in advance so that they can have access to emergency birth control when they need it.

If this is not an option, a person can purchase ella online. Multiple online retailers offer rapid and remote medical consultation and next-day delivery. However, individuals should take care when purchasing any medical products online and only purchase from reputable companies that require a consultation.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Planned Parenthood Direct

Emergency contraception is available in most states through the Planned Parenthood Direct app.

A person downloads the app, selects the service, fills in a health questionnaire, and completes the request. A clinician then responds within 1 business day through the app.

The app is available to download from Google Play or the App Store.

Nurx

Nurx offers ella for $45 without insurance. It also offers overnight shipping for $15.

A person requests the medication, and the Nurx provider in their state will prescribe it if appropriate.

PRJKTRUBY offers ella for $105 with free overnight shipping. Currently, it does not accept insurance.

A person requests the medication and registers an account, completes a medical consultation, and provides payment information. They then have a telephone, video, or digital consultation with a prescription provider in their state.

According to Planned Parenthood, ella is 85% effective if a person takes it within 5 days after sex without a condom or other barrier method. It is more effective the sooner an individual takes it.

According to a 2019 meta-analysis, about 1.2–1.8% of people who take Ella after sex without a condom or other barrier method will become pregnant.

The ella morning-after pill has no known long-term side effects and does not affect future pregnancies.

In the short term, the side effects of birth control do not typically last long. They may include:

What are the safety considerations?

People should note that the following supplements and medications may make ella less effective:

  • St. John’s Wort
  • antiseizure medications, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) and felbamate (Felbatol)
  • rifampin (Rifadin)
  • antifungal medications, such as griseofulvin
  • barbiturates
  • bosentan (Tracleer)

Another safety consideration is that though ella can help prevent pregnancy, it does not protect individuals from sexually transmitted infections.

A person should not take progestin-containing birth control pills with ella or for 5 days after taking ella. People can speak with their doctor about when to resume other hormonal contraception and use barrier methods of contraception.

Factors that a person may wish to consider before taking ella include:

  • Timely access to healthcare: ella requires a prescription, but it is most effective the sooner someone takes it. Therefore, they should get a prescription as soon as possible.
  • Body weight: Those with a BMI of above 30 should discuss ella with a doctor before using it, as this may reduce the effectiveness of some emergency birth control medicines.
  • Breastfeeding individuals: The manufacturer of ella does not recommend taking it when breastfeeding.

Other forms of emergency birth control include the copper intrauterine device (IUD). These devices can prevent pregnancy, but they are often more difficult to access than other emergency birth control methods, as a qualified healthcare professional must insert them.

Levonorgestrel, available under the brand name Plan B One-Step, is another emergency contraceptive that can reduce the chances of pregnancy if a person takes it within 3 days of having sex without a condom or other barrier method.

The table below compares ella with the copper IUD and Plan B:

ellacopper IUDPlan B
efficacy85%99.9%75–89%
protects against STDs?nonono
most effective within5 days5 days3 days
side effectsspotting

irregular periods

headache

fatigue

dizziness

abdominal pain

nausea

tender breasts
irregular periods or stopping completely

cramping

backache

spotting between periods
change in period

upset stomach

dizziness

tender breasts

Below, we answer some common questions about ella.

How much does the ella pill cost?

ella usually costs about $50 when a person purchases it through a pharmacy or clinic. If they order it via online consultation and opt for next-day delivery, the cost can go up to around $105.

Can you take ella with another form of birth control?

People who take ella and want to begin or go back to a different hormonal birth control method should wait until their next cycle. In the meantime, they could consider abstaining from sex or using a barrier method of birth control.

According to ella’s manufacturer, if a person’s period is more than 7 days late after taking the emergency contraceptive, they should take a pregnancy test and speak with their doctor. They should also do this if their period is unusually light or heavy after taking ella.

Do you need a prescription for the ella morning-after pill?

Yes. However, many online sites offer virtual consultations with licensed medical professionals and next-day delivery. Planned Parenthood clinics also offer access to consultations and prescriptions.

Birth control can help those who are sexually active but do not wish to become pregnant. However, some forms of birth control are not 100% effective, and emergency birth control pills, such as the ella morning-after pill, can prevent pregnancy if other contraception fails.

It is best to take ella as soon as possible after having sex without a condom or other barrier method, but a person can take it up to 5 days, or 120 hours, later. ella is only available with a prescription.

The ella morning-after pill has no known long-term side effects and should not affect future pregnancies.