The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception. Women can take morning after pills to prevent pregnancy in the event of unprotected sex or when another birth control method has failed. Morning after pills are not a method of abortion, as they do not terminate a pregnancy that has already been implanted, but they do serve to prevent a pregnancy from happening. The pill can act to delay or prevent ovulation from happening, prevent fertilization, or keep the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
The morning after pill does not work as a contraceptive method before or during sexual intercourse, and should not be used as a regular form of emergency contraception.
You should only use the pill after unwanted accidents or contraceptive failure. They also can only be used to prevent pregnancies, and don’t protect against any sexually transmitted diseases.
There are two types of morning after pills: ones that contain levonorgestrel (known as Plan B One-Step), and ones that contain ulipristal acetate (ella). Since emergency contraceptive pills affect the hormones in the body, there might be some side effects after taking the pill.
Not everyone should take morning after contraceptive pills, especially women who are allergic to any component of the pill, are taking medications that may diminish the effectiveness, or are already pregnant.
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What are the side effects?
Not all women experience side effects after taking morning after pills, but even when side effects are present they typically will go away after 24 hours or a few days at most. Common side effects that women may experience include nausea or vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, breast tenderness, irregular periods, bleeding between periods or heavier menstrual bleeding, and lower abdominal pain or cramps.
When taken frequently, the pill can cause sporadic and irregular period cycles, and taking the pill too frequently can diminish its effectiveness.
It’s important to make sure that you’re not pregnant before using the ulipristal morning after pill, since effects of the ulipristal on a developing fetus is still unknown.
How effective is it?
Morning after pills are the most effective the sooner you take them, so it is less likely that you will get pregnant if you take it within the first few days after unprotected sex takes place. Morning after pills reduces the risk of pregnancy by 88%, and taking progestin-only morning after pills within the first 24 hours will reduce your risk of pregnancy by up to 95%. Anti-progestin pills such as ella are even more effective than progestin-only pills. The exact effectiveness of the morning after pill depends on how quickly it is taken after unprotected sex and what kind is used.
Plan B must be taken within 3 days of sexual intercourse, and ella can be effective until up to 5 days after sexual intercourse. However, the pill is most effective when administered as quickly as possible. Even though these pills have a high rate of effectiveness, they are still not 100% effective and there are even factors that can reduce the effectiveness of the pill.
Vomiting before your body has fully absorbed the pill, usually within three hours of taking it, can hinder its effectiveness. It is also thought that the morning after pills could be affected by high body mass index. You should also not take the morning after pill with certain medications, so it is best to consult with a doctor before taking the pill if you are on any prescribed medications currently.
Just because the morning after pill can be effective in preventing pregnancy doesn’t mean it should be used as a regular form of birth control. It is still not as effective as using other long term birth control methods such as birth control pills. The morning after pill should be used only in emergencies, after a condom breakage, heat of the moment unprotected sex, or sexual assault.