The Truth About the Morning After Pill: Here’s What You Need to Know

woman taking the morning after pill

Sometimes, you may do everything you can to prevent pregnancy, but something goes wrong; a broken condom, missed pill, or a brief, uncharacteristic lapse in judgment. Thankfully, women can find security and peace of mind with emergency contraception. 

There’s a lot of information about the morning after pill, and, unfortunately, that means there’s also plenty of misinformation. When considering emergency contraception, you need the facts, not rumors and unverified assumptions. 

Here is everything you need to know about the morning after pill to feel confident and informed about your options!

How It Works

The morning after pill is a form of emergency or backup contraception used to prevent pregnancy. There are several types of pills available, and even an emergency IUD, that are considered effective pregnancy preventatives.

A morning after pill must be taken within three to five days (depending on which one you use) of unprotected sex or birth control failure to be effective. The sooner you take it, the better it works. For the best results, try to take emergency contraception within 12-24 hours.

The morning after pill works by delaying ovulation.

hormone called levonorgestrel

Most morning after pills contain a high dose of a hormone called levonorgestrel, which stops the release of an egg or prevents fertilization or implantation of an egg that has been released. There are also pills available that use a drug called ulipristal acetate to block your body’s hormones to prevent pregnancy, requiring a prescription.

Possible Side Effects

Some women experience no side effects after using emergency contraception. Those who do typically only have them for a few days. The most common side effects of the morning after pill include the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting (if you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, consult your healthcare provider about whether you may need another dose)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Lower abdominal cramps
  • Breast tenderness

You also may experience a delay in your next period after using emergency contraception. Spotting beforehand is common, and your period may be up to one week late. You should take a pregnancy test if you don’t get your period within three to four weeks.

Common Misconceptions

As mentioned previously, much false information about emergency contraception has been spread. Women need to know the truth behind these myths so they’re not afraid to seek out the morning after pill when needed and end up dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

MYTH: The morning after pill is the same as an abortion pill.

The morning after pill is NOT the same as a medical abortion. Emergency contraception is not physically possible to terminate a pregnancy, only to prevent it. The hormone used in the morning after pill is the same one used in many forms of regular birth control. When you take an emergency contraceptive, you’re essentially just taking a higher dose of birth control.

Myth: The morning after pill causes infertility

Many people who want to have children in the future worry that emergency contraception will cause infertility, but there is no evidence that the morning after pill affects pregnancies or fertility. Unprotected sex, however, could affect a person’s fertility if they get a sexually transmitted infection that goes untreated, such as chlamydia.

MYTH: You need a prescription for the morning after pill.

Pharmacist handing patient morning after pill

Most morning after pills are available over the counter, with no prescription necessary. Certain emergency contraceptives require a prescription, but a majority are readily accessible at your local drug store or contraception clinic (many of which offer them for free).

Note: There is no longer an age requirement; you do not have to show ID to get the morning after pill.

If you find yourself in a situation where you might be facing an unplanned pregnancy, don’t be afraid to ask for help. South Avenue Women’s Services is committed to providing confidential and compassionate care for all women. We offer the morning after pillabortion services, birth control access, and other women’s wellness services.

Contact us at (585)271-3850 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our contact form online to inquire about our services.