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Morning After Pill

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Morning After Pill

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The morning-after pill is a type of contraception used to prevent pregnancy in cases of unprotected sexual intercourse and failed birth control methods.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Deepti Kurmi

Published At April 9, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 8, 2023

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, or 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:

  • Unprotected sex without the use of birth control.

  • If the condom breaks during sex.

  • If the diaphragm slips out of place.

  • If one missed two or three active birth control pill consecutively.

  • If one forgot to insert a ring or apply the patch.

  • If the partner did not pull out in time.

  • Sexual assault.

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 one takes 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.


Which Morning-After Pill Is Right?

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 one is looking for emergency contraception because one missed taking the 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 one takes 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 one feels that they need emergency contraception, it should be taken as soon as possible. It will not work if one takes 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 periods unpredictable or irregular or can cause heavy menstrual bleeding. So if one takes 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 one suspects 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.

Call the doctor if one vomits within a couple of hours after taking the pill, as one 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 the 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 the milk. But it is not advisable to take emergency pills containing Ulipristal acetate during breastfeeding, as it is still unknown if it can affect the baby.


Emergency contraceptive pills will not cause abortion if one is 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 one takes 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. In case of missed periods and have symptoms of pregnancy even after taking the pill, consult a gynecologist or book a real-time video consultation online.


The Morning-after pill is used for emergency contraception. These drugs are capable of pregnancy prevention within 5 days period following unprotected sexual activity. However, their full efficacy is achieved when employed promptly after the incident. These medications will disrupt the hormonal sequence important for pregnancy, either by inhibiting egg implantation in the uterus or by obstructing the process of ovulation. They can be utilized by women, including those who are not suitable candidates for birth control pills containing estrogen, if the situation demands.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can You Get Pregnant After Taking a Morning-after Pill?

It is possible to get pregnant after taking a morning-after pill. This pill helps to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. But, it does not prevent pregnancy when you have sex after taking the pill.


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

Side effects of taking the morning-after pill are,
- Lower abdominal cramps.
- Fatigue.
- Heavier menstrual bleeding.
- Nausea.
- Dizziness.
- Breast tenderness.
- Headaches.
- Bleeding between periods.


Do Morning-after Pills Really Work?

The morning-after pills are around 85% effective in preventing pregnancy. It has been said that the EllaOne emergency contraceptive pill is more effective than the levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy.


How Do You Know if a Morning-after Pill Worked?

The only way to know if the morning after pill has worked is to wait for the next period to arrive. If the morning-after pill is taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, in that case, EllaOne is 99% effective. Also, get some idea about your menstrual cycle even though you take emergency pills.


Will the Morning-after Pill Mess up the Period?

Having your menus after taking emergency contraception is a sign that you are not pregnant. And it is also normal for the period to turn heavier or lighter, or it can occur earlier or later than the usual days after taking the morning-after pill. Your period may turn irregular if you take the morning-after pill frequently.


Why Did the Morning-after Pill Fail?

Sometimes, one dose of the morning-after pills prevents pregnancy by about 50-100%. There are some reasons for the morning-after pills to fail; they are ovulation timing, BMI (body mass index), and drug interactions.


How Do I Know I Am Ovulating?

The following are the points that help you know that you are ovulating.
- When there is a slight fall in the basal body temperature and then rises again.
- The cervical mucus becomes thinner and clearer with a more sticky consistency which resembles the egg whites.
- Feeling of slight twinge pain or mild cramps in the lower abdomen.


Can I Take the Morning-after Pill after 72 Hours?

There are 2 types of the morning-after pill; they are,
- Levonelle - It can be taken up to 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex.
- EllaOne - It can be used up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.
So, plan your pill based on the time you take it.


Can a Morning-after Pill Make the Period Longer?

The morning-after pill can make changes to the menstrual cycle. It can make the period heavier or lighter, and it can occur earlier or later than usual. Sometimes, longer periods can be experienced than before.


Is One Pill Enough to Stop Pregnancy?

When the morning-after pill is taken within the grace period of 24 or 72 hours after unprotected sex, one pill is enough to prevent pregnancy. But remember, one pill is only 50 to 100% effective.
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Dr. Deepti Kurmi
Dr. Deepti Kurmi

Obstetrics and Gynecology


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