Side Effects Of The Morning After Pill

The morning after pill causes side effects in some patients. This applies to Levonelle as well as EllaOne. The most common side effects of the morning after pill, also know as the emergency contraceptive pill, are nausea and stomach cramps as well as changes to your period. Your next period may begin earlier or later and the bleeding may be lighter or heavier than usual.

These side effects are temporary and they ought to pass quickly. The following information will help you find out more about possible side effects of your emergency contraception and what you can do to lessen them.

Key takeaways

  • The morning after pill can cause side effects such as nausea, headache and abdominal pain.

  • After taking the morning after pill, you may find that your next period is lighter or heavier than usual or that it comes earlier or later.

  • If you vomit within three hours of taking the morning after pill you may need to take another dose.

Contents of this article

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Levonelle side effects

Levonelle contains the hormone 'levonorgestrel', a synthetic version of the natural hormone progesterone. It is taken as a single 1.5 mg dose. The side effects of levonelle are:

  • nausea (affects approximately 15% of women)
  • vomiting (affects approximately 1.5% of women)

If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the morning after pill, you may require take a second dose - speak to your doctor or pharmacy as soon as possible.

EllaOne side effects

If you have been prescribed ellaOne, read the patient information leaflet supplied with your pill and make sure you understand how and when to take the tablet. The most common side effects of ellaOne are:

  • period alterations
  • headache
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle pain
  • back ache

Side effects occur in less than 10 per cent of women who take ellaOne.

ellaOne can fail to work if taken in combination with other medications, for example the herbal remedy St.John’s Wort. ellaOne can reduce the effectiveness of your normal birth control pill, so you need to use condoms until your next period begins or for at least 14 days.

How can I lessen the side effects?

If you experience headaches or menstrual cramps after taking a morning after pill, you can use paracetamol, aspirin or similar pain relief drugs to relieve these side effects. Some women find the following tips helpful in reducing the side effect of nausea:

  • Taking some over-the-counter anti-nausea medication about an hour before taking the morning after pill can help to prevent sickness (this may cause increased drowsiness in some people).
  • Taking the morning after pill with food can help prevent stomach problems.
  • Drinking milk and eating regular snacks can help with nausea.

How does the morning after pill affect my periods?

It is not uncommon to experience changes to your menstrual cycle after taking the morning after pill. Your next period may be lot heavier or lighter than it normally is. It may also arrive late or early. This is a common side effect caused by the relatively high dose of the hormone progesterone, the active substance in the morning after pill. Taking the emergency contraceptive pill three or more days before your usual ovulation date is likely to make your next period come early. Taking the emergency contraceptive pill three or more days after your usual ovulation date is likely to make it come late. Spotting or bleeding between periods is more likely if the pill is taken during the preovulatory phase.

Can the morning after pill lead to an ectopic pregnancy?

Studies have shown that the use of emergency contraception do not increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, in common with all contraceptive methods it reduces the absolute risk of an ectopic pregnancy by preventing pregnancy in general. However, they may occur and therefore it is important that you seek medical help if you suffer from persistent severe abdominal pain following treatment.

Are there any long-term risks to using the morning after pill?

There is currently no evidence that the morning after pill has any long-lasting effects on your health or fertility. Relatively little is known about:

  • the effect on women aged 16 and under
  • the effect when mixed with other drugs
  • the effect on women with medical conditions
  • the effect on women's ovulation and future fertility
  • the effect on foetal growth and development
  • the effect of long-term, routine use

There is no evidence or reason to believe that the morning after pill is detrimental to your health. However, emergency contraceptives should only ever be used in an emergency and never as a regular type of contraception.

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There are three morning after pills - Generic Levonelle, Levonelle and EllaOne. Generic Levonelle and Levonelle need to be taken within 3 days of unprotected sex, whereas EllaOne can be taken until 5 days after sex. The sooner you take the morning after pill, the more likely it is to be effective. 

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