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If you had unprotected sex or your method of birth control failed, you may consider taking the morning-after pill to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

The morning-after pill is a type of emergency contraception (EC) intended for backup after unprotected sex. It isn’t intended to be used as a primary method of birth control.

Using emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancy. There are currently two types of morning-after pills on the market. One kind contains ulipristal acetate (ella), while the other has levonorgestrel (Aftera, Plan B One-Step, and AfterPill).

Ella is a non-hormonal emergency contraception that has been proven to be highly effective. If taken within 5 days of having unprotected sex, it can lower your chances of getting pregnant by 85 percent.

We’re here to explain all about the ella morning-after pill, including the pros, cons, and everything in between — so you have the information you need to make the best choices for your body.

Ella (otherwise known as ulipristal) is a type of emergency contraception used to prevent pregnancy. It is not a form of birth control and shouldn’t be used as one.

Ella is the most effective morning-after pill on the market, with an efficiency rate of 85 percent when used up to 5 days after having unprotected sex.

This emergency contraception binds to the body’s progesterone receptors and blocks the hormone’s effects on the ovary (by delaying ovulation) and on the endometrium (by decreasing endometrial thickness) during your menstrual cycle.

If you had unprotected sex or believe your birth control method failed, emergency contraception can help you to safely prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Keep in mind that emergency contraceptives should be used as soon as possible after unprotected sex to effectively prevent pregnancy.

Ella contains a non-hormonal drug called ulipristal acetate. It prevents pregnancy by blocking the production of progesterone, which either stops ovulation or prevents the egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Ella cannot end a pregnancy if you’re already pregnant.

Despite being called a “morning-after pill,” you can take ella up to 5 days (120 hours) after having unprotected sex.

To take ella, first thoroughly read the label instructions, and use the medication exactly as prescribed. Take the one 30-milligram tablet by mouth, with or without food as directed by your doctor, as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.

Some people report feeling nauseous after taking emergency contraception, so talk with your doctor if you vomit within 2 to 3 hours of taking the pill. If this happens, you may need to take the medication again.

While ella claims to be as effective on day 5 as it is on day 1, it’s still important to take the medication as soon as you can to avoid ovulation.

Ella does not protect you from contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If your period is a week late after taking ella, it’s recommended that you take a pregnancy test.

Ella has been proven to be the most effective morning-after pill on the market, with an efficacy rate of 85 percent. In a clinical trial, ella was shown to reduce the rate of pregnancy to just 9 in 1000 when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

When taken within 24 hours, ella is 65 percent more effective at preventing pregnancy than Plan B. If taken within 72 hours, ella is still 42 percent more effective than Plan B.

Ella is a safe form of emergency contraception and side effects are not common. There have been no reports of serious illness or death after taking ella.

Many people report a change in their period after taking the medication. For example, you may find that:

  • your period is delayed
  • you bleed less or more heavily
  • you spot more than usual

While rare, some people have reported experiencing:

  • nausea
  • headaches
  • abdominal pain

If you suspect that you may be pregnant, do not take ella. The risks are currently unknown, so your doctor may suggest taking a pregnancy test before prescribing you emergency contraception.

Ella typically costs between $50 and $60 when purchased through a pharmacy or online, but the costs can vary. Some places may charge over $100.

If you have health insurance or Medicaid, there’s a chance that the costs will be covered. Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans are required to cover the costs of prescription birth control and related doctor’s visits. You can contact your health insurance provider, pharmacist, or doctor to find out if your plan covers ella.

You may also be able to get ella for free or at a lower cost from your local health department, a family planning clinic, or a Planned Parenthood center.

Ella and Plan B are both safe, effective forms of emergency contraception, but it’s helpful to understand their key differences.

Ella contains ulipristal, while Plan B contains levonorgestrel, which is similar to a much higher dose of regular birth control.

Like birth control, Plan B stops the ovaries from releasing eggs, while also preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing any existing eggs. Ella also prevents or delays ovulation and makes it difficult for an egg to embed into the uterus.

Ella is 65 percent more effective at preventing pregnancy than Plan B when it’s taken within 24 hours. If taken within 72 hours, ella is still 42 percent more effective than Plan B.

Plan B is available OTC, but you do need a prescription to get ella. Although costs vary, ella is typically more expensive, ranging from $50 to $105, while Plan B costs $35 to $50.

Prior to taking ella, you should check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with other medications you’re taking, including hormonal birth control, like the pill, patch, ring, or shot. Taking ella while on hormonal birth control can make them both less effective.

Studies have found that emergency contraceptives don’t work as well for those with high body mass indexes (BMI). BMI is used to assess people’s health. While it’s not the most accurate tracker (it doesn’t take body fat or lean body mass into account), BMI can help doctors assess a person’s risk for disease.

Ella has been found to be most effective for those with a BMI of 30 or less, while Plan B is most effective for those with a BMI of 25 or less.

If you have a higher BMI, these emergency contraceptives might not be as effective, and the risk for unwanted pregnancy may be higher. So it’s best to talk with a doctor.

Obtaining emergency contraception quickly can be stressful, but there are several ways to get ella. First, you’ll need a prescription. In some states, you can get a prescription directly from your pharmacist without seeing a doctor.

Call your local pharmacy to see if they have ella and can prescribe it to you if you live in:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Washington

You can also get a prescription from your gynecologist or primary care practitioner. It may be possible for them to call in a prescription for you, saving you an office visit.

Some Planned Parenthood locations or local health centers can also give you ella or a prescription for it.

You can also get a prescription and purchase ella online. Make sure to only buy from credible online websites, such as PRJKT RUBY or NURX, as some sites sell fraudulent medications that can be hazardous to your health.

Remember that the morning-after pill is more effective the sooner you take it, so consider getting ella before you actually need it. Keep it in a cool, dry medicine cabinet, so you don’t have to stress should you ever find yourself needing emergency contraception.

According to Drugs.com, ella has a 7.1 average rating out of 10. Sixty percent of reviewers reported having a positive experience, while 18 percent reported a negative experience.

Generally, people who have used ella seem to be happy with the medication’s efficacy and safety, while some complain that their period was noticeably delayed or that they experienced nausea.

Researching pregnancy prevention can be overwhelming and stressful, but it’s important to be informed, so you can make the best choices for your body. If you had unprotected sex and want to prevent pregnancy, there are several emergency contraceptives to choose from, including ella.

Ella is a safe, effective form of emergency contraception. It’s been proven to prevent unwanted pregnancy when taken within 5 days of unprotected sex. If you’re thinking about taking ella, talk with a doctor to learn more.


Katie Nave is a freelance writer and mental health advocate living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in publications including Elle, Newsweek, Glamour, and Business Insider. She served as a producer for the National Women’s March and is currently a writer at Sanvello. You can follow her @kathryn.e.nave.