How Does the Morning After Pill Work?

The “Morning After Pill”. Plan B. No matter how it’s called, the purpose of these medications is for emergency contraception. How does it work? Is it similar to the abortion pill? What are the side effects?
We will answer all of these questions and more in this blog post.
The Morning After Pill is not the abortion pill but is used as a backup form of emergency contraceptive that works with the goal of preventing ovulation. Plan B contains levonorgestel, which prevents and inhibits ovulation and fertilization, and may even alter the uterine lining. Another medication is ulipristal, which also works by preventing ovulation and thickening vaginal fluid to prevent fertilization.
Think of it like a highly concentrated form of medication commonly found in traditional birth control options. The morning after pill does not include misoprostol,  the medication found in the abortion pill. It is important to note that the morning after pill prevents both ovulation and fertilization. If the egg is fertilized prior to taking the morning after pill, it will not be able to implant in the uterus.
Plan B and Ella brands are both effective as backup emergency contraception, but both options come with risks and side effects. Plan B is effective at around 87%  up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. Ella’s effectiveness lasts up to 120 hours. Some common reasons you might want to take the morning after pill are if the condom breaks, you didn’t use any form of birth control, or if you were forced into having unprotected sex.
Like any form of hormonal birth control, there are side effects to the morning after pill. These include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abnormal periods
  • Abdominal pain

Abnormal periods are a particularly frustrating side effect because they can affect your ability to know if you are pregnant or get in the way of your being able to plan and protect against pregnancy.
The morning after pill does not prevent pregnancy 100% of the time and you should not use it for regular contraceptive purposes. Something to keep in mind is that the morning after pill is only effective either 72 or 120 hours, depending on which option you take, so you can’t take it if it’s been longer than three days since you had unprotected sex. Like the birth control pill, you should not take it if you are pregnant. You also won’t know if the pill has worked until your next period.
If you have had unprotected sex and are afraid you might be pregnant, you don’t have to feel alone. At Clearway Clinic, we offer medical consultations, free pregnancy tests, and free ultrasounds. Want to take a pregnancy test in a confidential space that’s not your doctor’s office? Give us a call today.

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