If you have questions about this form of emergency contraception, you’re not alone. There is a lot of information (both correct and incorrect) circling the Internet about the morning-after pill, and it can hard to know what to believe. Is it safe? Is it okay to take multiple times? How does it even work?
We have a complete guide with all the information about the morning-after pill you need right here. Don’t worry. You’re not by yourself in this! We’re here to answer your questions and provide the physician-based information you need to protect yourself.
What is the morning-after pill?
The morning-after pill is a pill designed to prevent pregnancy. It is an emergency contraceptive taken after unprotected sex or after a condom breaks during sex. It is unlike a daily birth control pill in that it should only be taken in situations where sex is unprotected or something goes awry during sexual activity.
The morning-after pill is not an abortion pill in any sense. “Morning-after pills do not end a pregnancy that has already implanted; they work primarily by delaying or preventing ovulation—the process by which an egg leaves the ovary,” explains Dr. Kristina Tocce, resident physician of Vibrant, Planned Parenthood's online sexual health shop.
The two types of brand-name morning-after pills are Plan B and Ella. Levonorgestrel (a.k.a. Plan B) is available at a pharmacy or on Amazon. Ulipristal Acetate (a.k.a. Ella), on the other hand, requires a prescription from your doctor. Both are equally effective in preventing pregnancy.
How do you take it?
For the morning-after pill to be effective, you must take it within the first 72 hours after unprotected sex. “Simply swallow the tablet the same way you would take any other pill,” says Tocce.
The pill is more effective the sooner you take it. So if you have unprotected sex, get to the store immediately. We suggest ordering two or three on Amazon to keep as backup just in case. “It is a good idea to purchase this before you need it and keep it in your medicine cabinet (just like you may keep condoms). That way, you can take it as soon as possible if an accident happens, and not be stressed about finding somewhere to get the morning-after pill,” adds Tocce. It can never hurt to be prepared, right?
Here’s an interesting fact: “The most effective method of emergency contraception is not a pill,” Tocce say. “It is a copper IUD, inserted within five days of unprotected sex. It’s extremely effective and offers ongoing contraception.” For this, you’ll need to make an emergency appointment with your OB-GYN.
Can you take the morning-after pill too many times?
There is a lot of hoopla around the morning-after pill. Myths about it causing infertility or messing with your reproductive system in other extreme ways abound. However, none of this is true. Taking a morning-after pill is essentially like taking a large dose of the birth control pill. It prevents ovulation from occurring.
Your fertility and health will not be compromised. “The morning-after pill is safe and can be used as often as needed. Frequent use may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable, but it will not make you less fertile in the long run,” Tocce explains. “There is no research showing that the morning-after pill has any long-term effects on your health or fertility.”
The reason you shouldn’t be taking it all the time actually has nothing to do with harming your body. As Tocce tells us, “taking it on a regular basis for birth control is not a great option because there are much better (and more cost-effective) forms of contraception.”
For example, you can take the daily birth control pill, get an implant in your arm, or get on IUD (an intrauterine device). These methods of birth control are designed for everyday use while the morning-after pill is for emergencies.