The morning-after pill, as the name suggests, refers to the pill you must take during the “morning after” you have had sexual intercourse as emergency contraception.
Its purpose is to prevent a woman from getting pregnant after she has had unwanted or unprotected sexual intercourse. It is also used if the contraceptive method used did not work.
This pill is meant as a backup birth control method only. It should never be used as the primary method of contraception.
There are two types of morning-after pills:
- Ulipristal acetate
The first type is a prescription drug. You can only purchase it from drug stores and pharmacies with a prescription from your doctor.
On the other hand, the second type, also called “Plan B One-Step,” is an over-the-counter drug and can be purchased even without a prescription.
What is it used for?
As mentioned earlier, a morning-after pill serves as emergency contraception. Examples of instances when it is useful for preventing pregnancy include the following:
- You were raped or sexually assaulted.
- You had sexual intercourse but the contraceptive you used didn’t work.
- You had sexual intercourse and you forgot to take your birth control pills.
- You had sexual intercourse and you did not use any form of contraception at all.
Note that this pill will not stop a pregnancy that has already successfully implanted.
The following are the only effects a morning pill has, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle:
- Prevent a fertilized egg from successfully implanting in the uterus.
- Block an egg from getting fertilized by a sperm.
- Prevent or delay ovulation.
Nevertheless, it has been strongly suggested, by recent researches, that a fertilized egg cannot be prevented by Levonorgestrel morning-after pills from implanting in the uterus.
It is not evident whether the same thing applies for Ulipristal acetate pills. You should not confuse morning-after pills with abortion pills.
The abortion pill, with the medical generic name “mifepristone,” terminates an already successful pregnancy.
This is one where the egg has been successfully fertilized by the sperm, and has implanted in the uterus and has already started developing.
What are the risks associated with using it?
As mentioned earlier, the morning-after pill is only meant as a backup form of contraceptive to prevent pregnancy after you have had unprotected sexual intercourse.
It is not recommended to be used regularly for birth control purposes. In addition, this pill is not 100% foolproof. There are times when it can fail to prevent pregnancy even if you used it correctly.
Furthermore, it does not protect you against sexually transmitted illnesses. It has to be noted that not all people can take the morning-after pill.
It should not be taken if you satisfy any of the following conditions:
- If you are obese or overweight, the morning-after pill might not be as effective as it is for women who are of normal weight.
- If you know for sure that you are already pregnant.
- If you are taking specific drugs or medications that may lower the morning-after pill’s effectiveness, such as barbiturates.
- If you are allergic to any ingredient of the morning-after pill.
- If you are breastfeeding, you should not take Ulipristal acetate morning-after pills.
- If you are pregnant, you should not take Ulipristal acetate morning-after pills as its effects on a developing fetus are still unknown. However, if you are already pregnant and you take a levonorgestrel morning-after pill, the developing fetus won’t be harmed. The intended effect of the morning-after pill simply won’t be achieved.
Are there any side effects that I should expect?
Yes. The morning-after pill may produce the following side effects:
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Heavier menstrual flow
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Tenderness of the breasts
- A headache
It should be noted that the above-mentioned side effects may last for only a couple of days.
Do I need to do anything prior to taking it?
To maximize the morning-after pill’s effectiveness, you should take it at the earliest possible time after you’ve had unprotected sex, and must not exceed 120 hours after it.
It is safe to take a morning-after pill no matter where you currently are in your menstrual cycle.
However, if the morning-after pill you plan on using is the levonorgestrel type, it is highly recommended that it be taken within 72 hours after you’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse.
On the other hand, if you plan on using the ulipristal acetate type, you should take one pill at the earliest possible time after unprotected sexual intercourse, and within less than 120 hours after it.
What should I do after taking a morning-after pill?
As already mentioned earlier, there are a number of side effects that you can expect to experience for a couple of days after taking a morning-after pill.
If you experience vomiting within 2 hours after taking it, you should get in touch with a doctor immediately because the pill’s components might have been expelled outside your body through the vomit.
Thus, there is a risk for it to not work. You should seek advice from a doctor as soon as possible on whether you should take another pill.
You must also avoid engaging in sexual intercourse until you have already begun another method of contraception. Note that the protection that a morning-after pill provides is not on long-term.
So if you still engage in unprotected sexual intercourse in the next couple of days or weeks after you have taken the morning-after pill, you are still at risk of getting pregnant.
Thus, you should immediately resume or start using a birth control method. It is normal if your menstrual period gets delayed by up to 7 days after you take a morning-after pill.
However, if you still do not get your period within 3-4 weeks after taking it, there is a possibility that it did not work.
Thus, you should take a pregnancy test immediately to verify.
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