Birth Control – The Morning After Pill (emergency contraception)

Birth Control – The Morning After Pill (emergency contraception)

The Morning After Pill

What is “the Morning-after Pill”?

Emergency contraception more commonly known as “the morning-after pill” is two large doses of hormones, similar to the ones in the birth control pill. The first dose must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected or inadequately protected intercourse, followed by a second dose 12 hours later. It is meant only as a back-up method of birth control to be used on an emergency basis only if you believe there has been a failure in your current method of birth control (i.e. when a condom breaks, if you have missed 2 or more days of the pill, etc).

How does the Morning-after Pill work?

The morning-after pill will prevent or delay the release of an egg from the ovary if given prior to ovulation, or it will help prevent the egg from traveling down the fallopian tubes and implanting in the uterus if you have already ovulated. The morning-after pill reduces the chance of getting pregnant; it does NOT cause an abortion.

How effective is the Morning-after Pill?

The morning-after pill is approximately 98-99% effective. However, the statistics of being pregnant rests greatly on where you are in your menstrual cycle. You are only fertile at the time of ovulation. If 100 women each had a single act of unprotected intercourse on one day in the middle of their cycle and then take the morning-after pill, only 2 to 3 will get pregnant.

Am I a good candidate for the Morning-after Pill?

Almost all women can use the morning-after pill, including most women who were told not to take the birth control pill on a regular basis. This includes women with past history of breast cancer, women over 35 who are smokers. You may decide to use the morning-after pill if:

  • you have failed to use any method
  • the condom you used broke or slipped off
  • you used a diaphragm without spermicide
  • your IUD was expelled
  • you missed pills or started a new pack late
  • you had intercourse against your will

Are there any reasons why I shouldn’t use the Morning-after Pill?

Yes, if you are currently pregnant. The morning-after pill will not work if you are already pregnant. Otherwise, the morning-after pill is safe for most women. The final decision is between you and your doctor.

What are the most common side effects of the Morning-after Pill?

Irregular Bleeding

  • Women using the morning-after pill may experience a change in their next period. It may come early, on time, or be late. Most women will get their period 7 to 9 days after treatment. If your period has not occurred by 21 days after treatment, you should check this out with a pregnancy test.


  • Half of women using this method will experience nausea and some will have vomiting. Take the morning-after pill with food to minimize this side effect. When vomiting occurs due to the morning-after pill it probably indicates that enough hormone has reached the blood stream to have its desired effect. There is no need to repeat the dose.

Ectopic Pregnancy

  • If the morning-after pill fails to prevent pregnancy, there is an increased chance it is a tubal pregnancy.


  • Common side effects include breast tenderness, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and dizziness. Since the morning-after pill is a short-term treatment, these symptoms should resolve shortly after you complete the two doses.

What are the benefits of the Morning-after Pill?

  • offers a second chance if you have had unprotected or inadequately protected sex
  • no increased risk for birth defects if taken by a woman already pregnant or the method fails
  • not dangerous to use several times; however, you should not count on the morning-after pill as ongoing contraception because they are not as effective as other forms of birth control. It is intended for one-time emergency protection

How do I take the Morning-after Pill?

The morning-after pill is provided in 2 doses. Take the first dose within 72 hours of unprotected sex, followed by the second dose 12 hours later. Use a back-up method until your next period. Do NOT have unprotected sex after treatment. Your next period may be early, on time, or late. If your period does not come within 21 days of treatment, you may be pregnant and you should check this one with a pregnancy test.

When can I start birth control after taking the Morning-after Pill?

You should start using a method such as condoms immediately after you start the morning-after pill. If you desire to start a hormonal form of birth control, such as the pill or the shot, the best time to start is when your have your period.

Does the morning-after pill cause birth defects if it fails and I do get pregnant?

There is no increased risk of birth defects if you take the morning-after pill and still become pregnant or even if you are pregnant when you take it. We will give you a pregnancy test before dispensing it to you, mostly because this the method will not be effective if you are already pregnant.

Does the morning-after pill cause infertility?

There is no effect on your future chances of getting pregnant. Your fertility returns after your next period.