Ella – Emergency Contraceptive / Morning After Pill
What is Ella?
The “Morning After Pill” is a common name for the most popular type of emergency contraceptive. Emergency contraceptives or emergency birth control (EC) is used to reduce the chance of a woman becoming pregnant after she has had unprotected sex without using birth control, during the fertile days while using natural family planning, or if the birth control method failed. EC is most effective when taken as soon as possible (within a few hours). Emergency contraceptives will not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Ella Emergency Contraceptive
Ella is a single dose emergency contraceptive pill (ECP). It is a back-up oral contraceptive method to be used as soon as possible, but no more than five days after unprotected sex or contraception failure, to reduce the chance of pregnancy. Currently, there is not a generic version for Ella in the United States.
The Ella brand pill requires a visit to a doctor to obtain a prescription. This is true even in California where women of any age are legally able to purchase emergency contraceptive pills at a pharmacy (i.e. CVS, Target, Walgreens, Rite-Aid) with a pharmacist consultation but without a prescription.
How does it work?
Ella contains a drug called ulipristal acetate (ulipristal). Ulipristal works by preventing ovulation (egg does not release) for five full days following unprotected sex. That’s important because sperm can live for five days in a woman’s reproductive tract. Ella’s ability to prevent or delay ovulation does not decrease over the five-day period following when you take it. Most emergency contraceptives are only approved for three-days use.
The latest scientific research shows that FDA approved ECPs containing levonorgestrel or ulipristal acetate do not inhibit the implantation of a fertilized egg. ECPs stop pregnancy by keeping the egg from leaving the ovary or keeping the sperm from joining the egg. Ella will not stop or harm an embryo that has already implanted. If you are already pregnant, it will not work. It is not the abortion pill.
Do not use Ella more than once in a menstrual cycle. Ella works before ovulation occurs so if you have unprotected sex after ovulation, taking Ella may not stop a pregnancy. If you have unprotected sex in the days or weeks after the use of Ella, there is a risk of becoming pregnant.
Are there side effects?
Side effects of Ella may include nausea, abdominal pain or cramps, headache and dizziness. Your period may be delayed, come sooner, be heavier or lighter than normal. If your period is more than one week late, you may be pregnant. You should not use Ella if you are breastfeeding.
Important: If you become pregnant or experience severe abdominal pain and/or bleeding 3-5 weeks after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, you may have an ectopic pregnancy (the egg has implanted outside the uterus). Since ectopic pregnancies may be life threatening, you should seek immediate medical attention.
How do I know if I should be concerned?
You should be concerned about an unintended pregnancy if you had sex and your birth control failed (i.e. condom broke, diaphragm not inserted correctly, during the fertile days while using natural family planning, etc.), if you did not use contraception, or if you missed/forgot to take your birth control pill(s). If you had sex and think that you may be at risk of pregnancy, chat with our nurse online or schedule an appointment at one of our three Bay Area Support Circle clinics in Oakland, Redwood City, and San Francisco. Support Circle offers free pregnancy tests and same day appointments.