The Morning-After Pill

You wake up the next morning, and realize what has happened… You are scared, shocked, and unsure of what to do next. You remember your friend talking about some kind of pill. What was it? Will it protect me? Will it help me out of this mess?

Making a decision to take any medication is a big deal. Facts and information can help. You are not alone. There are people who understand and may be able to help.

The pill your friend was referring to was the morning-after pill.

So what is it?

The morning-after pill is an emergency contraceptive with the purpose of preventing pregnancy after a woman has had unprotected sex. Unprotected sex could be that the woman missed one of her birth control pills, the birth control method failed, or birth control was not used at all. This pill does not end a pregnancy that has implanted, but works similarly to the birth control pills. Much like birth control pills the morning-after pill delays or prevents ovulation, blocks fertilization, or keeps a fertilized egg from implanting. Also, remember that the Morning-After Pill is not the same as the abortion pill(RU-486) thus providing a very limited window it can be used. There are three kinds of morning-after pills that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The three kinds are: Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Ella. Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are available over the counter and to women over 17 years old. Ella is available only through prescription.

Effects and Risks
It is important to note that the morning-after pill can be effective in preventing pregnancy, but it is not as effective as other contraceptives. Doctors do not recommend routine use of the morning-after pill. Protection from sexually transmitted infections is not found in the pill either. Its sole purpose is to prevent pregnancy in a certain time frame after unprotected sex. Like most medications consult your doctor. The morning-after pill is not appropriate for everyone and every situation. If you are allergic to its components, taking other medications, or breast feeding the morning after pill is not advised. Before taking the morning-after pill ensure you are not already pregnant. The pill, Ella, may have effects on a developing baby. Some side effects exist with all three pills. The side effects usually last a few days:

  •           Nausea
  •           Dizziness
  •           Fatigue
  •           Headaches
  •           Breast Tenderness
  •           Vomiting
  •           Bleeding
  •           Lower Abdominal Pain or Cramps
  •           Diarrhea

Using the Pill
Take caution to follow the morning-after pill’s instructions. For the Plan B One-Step take one pill in 72 hours or less after unprotected sex. With Next Choice, one pill should be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex. The second pill 12 hours after the first. If using Ella, take one pill within 120 hours of unprotected sex. When taking the morning-after pill it may be helpful to also take a pain reliever at the same time. If vomiting occurs within two hours after taking the pill consult your doctor. Using the pill may delay your period, but if your period is more than a week late; take a pregnancy test. After using the pill if you experience bleeding or spotting that lasts longer than a week or have severe abdominal pain, contact your doctor. These could be signs of complications.

This article is for informational purposes only and not to be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider further before taking any medication.