The 4-1-1 on the morning-after pill

The morning-after pill, commonly known as emergency contraception is a pill(s) intended to betaken after unprotected sex, or contraceptive failure, to prevent pregnancy. The sooner you take the pill following sexual activity, the higher the effectiveness.

There are 2 types of morning-after pills; Plan B One-Step ® and Ella.

Plan B, which maybe purchased over the counter, should be taken within the first 72 hours of unprotected sex. Plan B contains a high dose of the hormone progesterone (levonorgestrel) which is found in many kinds of birth control pills. The progesterone in Plan B may prevent ovulation. It may also affect the lining of the Fallopian tubes so that sperm cannot reach the egg, so in either case, fertilization or conception cannot occur. If an egg has already been released and fertilized by the sperm, Plan B may also irritate the lining of the uterus, making it harder for the embryo to implant.

The Ella morning-after pill, which requires a prescription, must be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. The chemical in Ella (ulipristalacetate) is related to the chemical mifepristone (RU-486) found in the Abortion Pill and works similarly in the body. Like Plan B, Ella may prevent ovulation and fertilization from occurring. Ella also acts to block the hormone progesterone which helps a woman’s body sustain a pregnancy. This reduces an embryos chances to survive and grow in the uterus.

It is not recommended to use either morning-after pill as a routine or primary form of contraception as it’s not as effective as traditional birth control. Side affects you may experience with the morning-after pill include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache, dizziness, fatigue
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting and unpredictable menstrual periods
  • Cramping and abdominal pain

Many people don’t know that the morning-after pill is not the same as the Abortion Pill. The Abortion Pill is a non-surgical abortion, consisting of two medications (mifepristone and misoprostol) and is offered up to 9 weeks gestation.

If you’ve taken the morning-after pill and are having severe side effects, contact your physician to rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. Please also remember that the morning-after pill does not prevent pregnancy from occurring from any sex you have after taking the pill and it does not protect from sexually transmitted diseases. Mosaic Virginia does not provide the morning-after pill; however, we can sit down with you and discuss your pregnancy options depending on your situation and gestation of pregnancy. And if you’ve been exposed to unprotected sex, Mosaic Virginia can also provide free STI testing and treatment for you. Call us at 703-729-1123 to schedule your appointment today.

Reference: The morning-after pill by Vicki L. Dihle, PA-C, Focus on the Family