Side-effects of Morning-after Pill (Consumption & Alternatives)

Side-Effects of Morning-After Pill

The morning-after pill is an emergency contraception method used to prevent pregnancy due to the occurrence of unprotected sexual intercourse. There are no compulsions to take them the next morning, they work best when taken as soon as possible after the event. Though it is safe and effective, there are several side-effects of morning-after pill.

What Is The Morning-After Pill?

Women who have had unprotected sex, or suffered a failed contraception method like a broken condom or a missed pill often opt for the morning-after pill. It is advised to keep this as a back-up plan rather than a primary form of birth control.

The morning-after pill is available in the market in two forms:

●  Levonorgestrel (multiple brands like Plan B One-Step, Take Action, among others)
●  Ulipristal acetate (sold as EllaOne)

Both of them work by delaying ovulation (release of an egg from the ovaries) and do not terminate an implanted pregnancy. They have to be taken within 3 to 5 days after having unprotected intercourse.

Morning-after pills do not continuously protect from pregnancy. If unprotected intercourse takes place after taking the pill, one might still get pregnant.

Side-Effects of The Morning-After Pill

The morning-after pill does not pose any serious or long-term health risks to its user. It has been reviewed that Plan B One Step is a safe and effective option for a majority of women. There can be some minor side-effects in a small number of females. These include:

●  Nausea
●  Headache
●  Stomach ache
●  Dizziness
●  Vomiting
●  Soreness in breasts

Emergency contraceptives often cause menstrual changes. They can cause fluctuations in the period flow and dates. Your periods might come late, early, or on time and the flow might be heavier and more painful, or lighter than usual.

Side-effects of morning-after pills only last for up to two days and are mild in severity. Consult a doctor or a specialist if they do not subside or if:

●  You think you are pregnant
●  Periods are over 3 weeks late
●  Period flow is way lighter than usual
●  Bleeding or spotting occurs for over a week
●  Excruciating pain in the lower abdominal area after 3 to 5 weeks of taking the pill

Bleeding for over a week and extreme pain in the abdominal area can be the symptoms of either a miscarriage or implantation of an embryo outside the uterus. In the latter, the embryo usually gets implanted in the fallopian tubes. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. Thus, consulting a doctor in case of these symptoms is extremely crucial.

Consuming The Morning-After Pill

Morning-after pills that contain levonorgestrel, like Plan B One-Step, are available easily as non-prescription drugs. Pharmacies usually do not even require an age proof as it is safe for women over 16. Ideally, these should be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.

Pills containing ulipristal acetate are not available without a prescription from the doctor. However, these are usually a lot more operative and give you a window of 5 days to take it.

Emergency contraception pills should be preferred if any of the following have occurred:

●  Improper use of a condom that led to its breakage
●  Primary contraception pills are missed for 2 consecutive days
●  Contraceptive patch or vaginal ring were used incorrectly
●  Diaphragm slipped out of place
●  Unsure about the primary contraception method used

Emergency contraception pills are usually not recommended for breastfeeding and pregnant women, especially the ones with ulipristal acetate. This hormone can sometimes affect the quality of breast milk. Other circumstances under which the morning-after pill is not recommended includes:

●  Women who are obese or overweight
●  Women who might be hypersensitive to any of the ingredients in the drug
●  In the case of unevaluated and unusual vaginal blood flow

How Effective Is The Morning-After Pill?

Morning-after pills are most active if taken within a 24-hour window. However, they have still found a success rate of up to 87% if taken within 3 days or 72 hours.

It is advisable to maintain these pills as a back-up option rather than the primary method of birth control. One of the main reasons being that they do not shield against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).


This list does not contain all the medicines or drugs that the morning-after pill can react with. There are over a hundred drug interactions, most of them affect birth control pills by impacting their effectiveness.

They can cause the birth control hormones to decrease in the body, thus increasing the chances of pregnancy. Some of these drugs that can interact are:

●  St. John’s wort
●  HIV drugs like nelfinavir, nevirapine, among others
●  Seizure treatment drugs like carbamazepine, phenytoin, primidone, among others

Drug interactions can alter or amplify the side-effects and benefits of any given medication. It can also risk the increased severity of side-effects of morning-after pill. Thus, it is important to check with a doctor before combining any medicines.

Provide them with a list of your medicinal history and current medications and do not make any changes to the dosage without consultation.

Alternatives To The Morning-After Pill

Another great alternative for an emergency contraceptive pill is the copper intrauterine device (IUD). This has an effectiveness rate of up to 99% and can be used within 5 days or 120 hours after having unprotected sex.

 How Does A Copper IUD Work?

A copper IUD is a t-shaped device that primarily consists of copper and plastic. It works by releasing minimal amounts of copper into the uterus. These copper molecules change the uterine lining in a manner such that the embryo has a harder time sticking to it. The IUD also makes the fertilization process harder.

 Effectiveness Of A Copper IUD

It is inserted inside the womb by a trained doctor or nurse and works efficiently for 5 to 10 years. The effectiveness may reduce drastically if it is not placed correctly or if it falls out. Remember to check the type while opting for an IUD as this can affect the time for which it is active.

 Advantages Of A Copper IUD:

  • Highly effective for a long period of time
  • No hormonal changes
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Easy to remove

 Disadvantages Of A Copper IUD:

  • Risk of falling out, especially in the initial months
  • Can cause heavier periods


Remember that the morning-after pill does not cease a pregnancy, but inhibits one. It can be highly effective if taken correctly but should not be used as a routine method of contraception. Several types of IUD is also an effective method of birth control.

Though usually reliable, the pill can still be ineffective, depending on the time after which it was taken, how it was taken, and personal health parameters. Moreover, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

If there are any complications and side-effects of morning-after pill, as mentioned above, consult a specialist immediately or grab a pregnancy test as quickly as possible.