Women's Health

Morning After Pill

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Deepti Kurmi

Published on Apr 09, 2019 and last reviewed on May 13, 2019   -  4 min read



The morning after pill is a type of contraception that contains Levonorgestrel or Ulipristal acetate and is used to prevent pregnancy by women who have had unprotected sexual intercourse or women whose birth control method has failed.

Morning After Pill

What Is Morning-After Pill?

The morning after pill is a type of contraception that contains Levonorgestrel or Ulipristal acetate and is used to prevent pregnancy by women who have had unprotected sexual intercourse or women whose birth control method has failed. As it is only used in cases of emergencies and not as the primary method of birth control, it is also called an emergency contraceptive pill (ECP).

Quick Facts About Morning-After Pills:

  • It can significantly lower the risk of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours.

  • It is not advisable to use them instead of oral contraceptive pills (OCP).

  • It is not an abortion pill, so it will not have any effect on women who are already pregnant.

  • It might cause nausea, dizziness, breast tenderness, and changes in the menstrual cycle.

  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • It is not as effective in preventing pregnancy as regular contraception.

How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

The morning-after pill either works by-

-preventing or delaying ovulation.

-interfering with fertilization of the egg.

-preventing implantation of the fertilized egg by altering the uterine wall.

Who Should Take the Morning-After Pill?

The morning-after pill can be taken in the following situations:

When to Take the Morning-After Pill?

Emergency contraceptive pills can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. But the sooner you take it, the more effective it will be. Ideally, it should be taken within 72 hours (3 days).

How Effective Is the Morning-After Pill?

Pills containing Ulipristal acetate is more effective than Levonorgestrel pills. When used within 72 hours, Ulipristal is twice as likely as Levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy. Depending on the time of administration, the effectiveness of both the pills in preventing pregnancy is given below.




Within 24 hours



Within 72 hours



Within 120 hours



Which Morning-After Pill Is Right for Me?

As you would have already read, there are two types of morning-after pills available:

  • The pill with Ulipristal acetate - It is the most effective type, and can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, as it works almost the same on day 5 as it does on day 1. This is available on prescription only.

  • The pill with Levonorgestrel - If you are looking for emergency contraception because you missed taking your birth control pill, then this is a good option. They are available over-the-counter in most countries and should be taken within 72 hours. The sooner you take them, the more effective they are.

How Is the Morning-After Pill Taken?

Read and follow the pill’s instructions properly before taking the pill. If you feel that you need emergency contraception, take it as soon as possible. It will not work if you take it before unprotected sex. It has to be taken within 72 hours (3 days).

How Often Can the Morning-After Pill Be Taken?

It is safe to take the morning-after pill whenever necessary, but it should not be used as an ongoing form of birth control methods like an intrauterine device (IUD), ring, or patch. Frequent use of emergency contraception can make your periods unpredictable or irregular or can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. So if you take more than three morning-after pills a month, it is advisable to consider other methods of birth control.

What Are the Contraindications of the Emergency Pill?

Do not take the pill if you suspect pregnancy. Get a home or blood pregnancy test done and then take the pill. As such, there is no absolute contraindication for the use of these pills. But the efficacy of the drug may reduce in the following situations:

  • Malabsorption syndrome.

  • Enzyme-inducing drugs.

  • Hypersensitivity to the pill.

  • Severe liver disease.

  • Obese woman.

  • Taking drugs that increase the gastric pH.

What Is the Other Form of Emergency Contraception?

Apart from morning-after pills, Copper intrauterine device (IUD) can be used for emergency contraception. Copper IUD if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex, can prevent pregnancy up to 99.9%. It is the most effective form of emergency contraception.

What Are the Side Effects of the Morning-After Pill?

The possible side effects are:

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Breast tenderness.

  • Lower abdominal pain.

  • Abdominal cramps.

  • Headache.

  • Fatigue.

  • Menstrual changes.

  • Delay periods.

  • Dizziness.

  • Intermenstrual bleeding.

Call your doctor if you vomit within a couple of hours after taking the pill, as you might have to repeat the dose.

Is It Safe to Take Morning-After Pills During Breastfeeding and Pregnancy?


Taking emergency pills containing Levonorgestrel during breastfeeding is safe. Some of the hormones in the pill can be passed to your baby through the milk, but it has shown no side effects on the baby. It will have no effect on the quantity and quality of your milk.

But it is not advisable to take emergency pills containing Ulipristal acetate during breastfeeding, as it is still unknown if it can affect your baby.


Emergency contraceptive pills will not cause abortion if you are already pregnant. The hormones present in the pill will not affect the developing fetus if implantation has already occurred. But it is advisable to get a pregnancy test done before you take the tablet.

Always choose other birth control methods as they are more effective in preventing pregnancy, and avoid using emergency contraceptive pills as much as possible. If you have missed your periods and have symptoms of pregnancy even after taking the pill, consult your gynecologist or book a real-time video consultation online.

Last reviewed at:
13 May 2019  -  4 min read




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