Morning after pill side effects

What you should know before taking the morning after pill


The side effects of the morning-after pill may vary depending upon which brand you take. Levonelle and ellaOne contain different active ingredients; therefore, their mechanism of action and side effects vary. 

Common side effects of Levonelle include headache, nausea and depression (sometimes severe). Some other side effects such as breast discomfort, changes in libido, dizziness, fatigue, changes in appetite, skin disorders and menstrual changes can also occur, although their frequency is not yet known.

EllaOne is regarded as more effective than Levonelle, but it also has a few more possible common side effects. These include: abdominal pain, back pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, digestive disturbances, headaches, menstrual changes, muscle spasms and nausea. Uncommon side effects, such as blurred vision, breast tenderness, hot flushes and rashes are also possible, but not likely.

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What should I do if I experience side effects of the morning-after pill?

The side effects of emergency contraceptives are generally not severe and can often be treated with over the counter medications, such as Paracetamol and anti-nausea tablets. Taking these secondary medications an hour before the emergency contraceptive can reduce the occurrence of side effects by 65%, although it may increase drowsiness.

It is essential when taking any drug - not just the morning after pill - that you read the accompanying patient information leaflet that comes with it and you look-out for side effects. Most side effects will be mild, but in rare cases they can be very dangerous or even life-threatening. So if you’re worried, you should get in contact with a medical professional to check.

What should I do if I vomit after taking the morning after pill?

Some medical professionals may recommend that if you vomit soon after taking the morning-after pill, you should take another morning-after pill dose just in case. It would be best if you spoke to the relevant doctor or pharmacist to confirm.

How does the morning-after pill work?

Levonelle contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the progesterone hormone. Levonelle primarily works by preventing the release of an egg (ovulation) from the ovaries. However, it also increases the thickness of the mucus around the cervix, which helps by creating a barrier making it difficult for sperm to pass into the cervix.

EllaOne contains a chemical called ulipristal acetate which affects the receptors of the progesterone hormone. It tricks the body into thinking that ovulation has already occurred, by telling the receptors that there are higher levels of progesterone than there actually are in the body. This causes ovulation to be delayed or prevented altogether.

How quickly do I need to take the morning after pill?

Emergency contraceptives should be taken as soon as possible for the best results. You can take Levonelle up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex and ellaOne up to 120 hours (5 days) after.

How effective is the morning after pill?

Both Levonelle and ellaOne is 95% effective up to 12 hours after unprotected sex. After 48 hours, the effectiveness of Levonelle reduces to 58%. However, ellaOne, is up to 95% effective up to 120 hours after intercourse. So if it has been over 12 hours since the unprotected sex, ellaOne may be more effective. Not taking the pills as directed can diminish their effectiveness.

Is the morning after pill an abortion pill?

No. Emergency contraceptives (morning-after pills) are not the same as abortion pills. While it may stop the pregnancy from happening, it cannot does not terminate a pregnancy. Taking emergency contraceptive after pregnancy does not cause abortion or miscarriage.

Can I use the morning after pill, instead of birth control?

There is not yet sufficient research into the long term use of the morning-after pill. The clinical trials only assessed the occasional use of the morning after pill, not its regular use. From what we know about this pill, it doesn’t produce any dangerous side effects when used as intended. However, the risks of long term, regular use have not been adequately assessed, so there may be serious side effects that we don’t yet know about. Such dramatic interference with your hormone levels, over the long term, has the potential to cause serious side effects, birth defects and health problems.

However, we do know that other forms of contraception carry less risk. When it comes to pregnancy, menstrual cycles and your health in general, it is always better to go with the safer option. There are simply too many variables in these instances to risk using the treatment option that has more potential for causing problems.


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