Morning-after pill: when to take it and side effects

An unexpected night of passion can often lead to a day of stress as you rethink your ovulation dates, hoping you don’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy. Morning after pills are a huge relief at this point. However, if you also look hysterically at the side effects of this pill and then stress about its effects on your body, we’ve got you! Here’s everything you need to know about these morning-after pills!

How does a Morning After Pill work?

Whether you have had unprotected sex or a broken condom, the morning-after pill can be your salvation. Gynecologist Dr Srividhya Guddeti says: “The morning-after pill works primarily by preventing or delaying ovulation, thereby preventing the release of an egg from the ovary. It can also thicken the cervical mucus, which can make it difficult for sperm to reach the egg.”

Can contraceptive pills also work as a morning-after pill?

Wondering if your regular birth control pill can also work as a morning-after pill? That’s possible, says Dr. Guddeti, but there are some things to keep in mind. “Not all contraceptive pills can serve as a morning-after pill. Consulting a healthcare provider is therefore crucial. Currently, birth control pills are not approved for use as emergency contraception.”

You should consult a doctor after taking a morning-after pill.

What is the most effective morning-after pill?

The most commonly used oral emergency contraceptive regimen includes the progestin-only pill (levonorgestrel) and the selective progesterone receptor modulator (ulipristal acetate). “Both are effective when taken within the recommended time frame, with ulipristal acetate being more effective than levonorgestrel, especially if taken closer to ovulation,” says Dr. Guddeti.

How do you take a Morning After Pill?

Be as fast as you can! “The morning-after pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse, ideally within 72 hours, depending on the type. It is not intended for regular use and should only be reserved for emergencies as it may disrupt the menstrual cycle if used frequently. They work by delaying or stopping ovulation,” explains Dr. Guddeti.

If you’re wondering what to do after 120 hours, the effectiveness of the morning-after pill decreases significantly after 72 hours and is generally not recommended after 120 hours. “Levonorgestrel is effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse and is available as an over-the-counter medicine,” says Dr. Guddeti.

She adds: “Ulipristal acetate is effective within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse and has been shown to be more effective at preventing pregnancy after unprotected intercourse compared to levonorgestrel. However, it is not available without a prescription. It is very effective in obese patients compared to levonorgestrel. Safety in breastfeeding mothers remains to be investigated.”

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What are the side effects of morning-after pills?

Emergency contraceptive pills do not have serious long-term consequences. “They can cause nausea and vomiting, and they can change the timing of menstruation, by bringing it forward or delaying it, and can cause painful periods,” says Dr. Guddeti. However, if vomiting occurs within 2 hours of ingestion, it is advisable to repeat the dosage.

But here’s what to do after the pill. “Since none of the emergency contraceptive methods is 100% effective, it is important to consult your gynecologist if menstruation is missed in that cycle, as it is always mandatory to exclude an intrauterine pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy,” says Dr. Guddeti.

What’s better: getting an IUD or taking the morning-after pill?

Both options have different benefits and considerations. Although an IUD can serve as a long-term method of contraception and can also serve as emergency contraception, it must be inserted by a healthcare provider. Morning-after pills, on the other hand, are easily available and require no medical intervention. However, they are not intended for long-term use and may cause side effects.

“Specifically, the IUD can be used as non-hormonal emergency contraception within 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse. Its copper content works by altering sperm ascent and creating a hostile environment for embryo implantation. Furthermore, it is more effective and serves the dual purpose of regular contraception once inserted, making it superior to emergency pills,” explains Dr. Guddeti.

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