Morning After Pill: What Is It and What are the Side Effects?

The “morning after pill” goes by a few different names, such as the “Plan B bill” or “ella.” It is important to understand what the morning after pill is, and what it isn’t.

If a woman is already pregnant, the morning after pill will not terminate the current pregnancy. Because of this, the morning after pill is not considered an “abortion pill.” Rather, it is considered to be a form of emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception is only recommended as a back-up plan, and not as a primary plan for preventing pregnancy. Some examples of when emergency contraception might come into play are:

  • If a woman is using an oral contraceptive (birth control pills) and missed a day or two of her pills. 
  • If a couple was using a condom and it fell off or broke during intercourse.

How do these emergency contraceptives work?

What happens in the body when one of these medications is taken? The body temporarily delays the release of an egg from the ovary. If the woman has already ovulated before the sexual encounter and is in her ovulation cycle, the morning after pill will not be effective, because the egg has already been released, and therefore can still be fertilized. However, if she has not ovulated, she has a window of opportunity to be proactive in the prevention of a pregnancy.

What are the side effects with emergency contraception?

  • Difficult Period (lighter, heavier, earlier or later than normal)
  • Headache
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficult periods
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

If these side effect become persistent or worsen, it is recommended that the woman follow-up with her physician or go to the ER.

Other things to be aware of with emergency contraceptives

  • Different brands of morning after pills have different windows of effectiveness. Be sure to research each brand carefully, or consult a physician or pregnancy resource center such as AbbaCare.
  • If a woman is overweight (has a higher BMI – body mass index), the morning after pill may be less effective. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
  • If a woman vomits within 2 hours of taking the morning after pill, she should consult her physician for further recommendations.

Using the morning after pill can delay a woman’s period for up to a week after it is due. It is recommended that if a woman’s period does not start for 3-4 weeks, she should take a pregnancy test.

Like all birth control methods, the morning after pill is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. If you feel you may be at risk for an unintended pregnancy, or may already be pregnant, call AbbaCare today for a free, confidential pregnancy options consultation. We welcome you in a caring, non-judgmental environment and we are here to answer all of your questions. Click here to email, or call 540.665.9660 in Winchester, VA or 304.726.6582 in Martinsburg, WV. 

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