Home » Morning after pills: use, types, side effects, safety

Morning after pills: use, types, side effects, safety

Morning after pills

You know so many abortions could be avoided if only many people knew how to use the morning after pill correctly. Eating the banana without the peeling is all fun till 2 weeks later you discovered you late and do the test and bamm you all knocked up! A baby wasn’t really in your plans and next thing you know you considering…abortion (and this my friend comes with its own risks).

You could have avoided getting to that!

What is a morning after pill?

A morning after pill is a type of emergency contraception (method used to prevent pregnancy) used after unprotected sex. The other type of emergency contraception is the Copper IUD (Intrauterine device) which we won’t address in this article (A little hint though: it is the most effective method of emergency contraception with 99.9% efficacy!!!)

Back to the pills…there are 2 main types

Emergency contraception pill
Photo credit: Unsplash


One that contains levonorgestrel for example brands like Norlevo (~3325 XAF) , Levo BD (~1950 XAF) and Protec pill (~1725 XAF). They are usually one pill packs …though some brands come in 2 like Postinor-2 and Norvel-72 (here the 2nd pill is taken 12 hours after the first was taken).  Must be taken within 72hours after unprotected sex.

EllaOne pill
Photo credit: Unsplash


The other contains ulipristal and for now not available in many different brands, the one you will find is EllaOne. This is available only on prescription from your doctor. It can be used up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. It is considered more effective than levonogestrel

comparison morning after pills

When should I use a morning after pill?

You can use a morning after pill if    
  • You had unprotected sex   
  • You suspect your condom broke   
  • You missed your regular birth control pill
  • Sexual assault (e.g. rape victim)

What the morning after pill is not

  • It is not an abortion pill: it works by preventing you from getting pregnant in the first place (given pregnancy doesn’t occur immediately after sex). If you suspect you are pregnant, a morning after pill won’t help you, go see a doctor
  • It doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases or blood born viruses that usually come from unprotected sex. Practice safer sex.

While there is no limit to the number of times you can take a morning after pill, it is called emergency contraception for a reason. It shouldn’t be your regular birth control method. There are other more efficient ways of birth control like condoms, birth control pills and IUD.

What are the side effects of morning after pills?

Morning after pills are generally considered safe. You may however experience some side effects such as:  

  • Nausea    
  • Vomiting or diarrhea    
  • Tender breasts    
  • Dizziness  
  • Fatigue   
  • Spotting between periods   
  • Next period may be delayed or come earlier and may be more painful/heavier than usual

While there are no long term studies to show the risks of using morning after pills, having unsafe sex puts you at risk of many sexually transmitted diseases.

Will it affect other medications I take?

Yes, morning after pill doesn’t mix well with all medications so make sure to let your health care provider know the medications you are taking especially if you are taking medications for HIV, TB, epilepsy or drugs like omeprazole and a few antibiotics like rifampicin.

Medication safety tips for morning after pills

  • Read drug labels
  • Taking more than one pill won’t increase the efficacy so resist the temptation to double the dose
  • Take pill within time limit for better results
  • Always have one with you especially when you suspect you will be having unprotected sex, you know, parte after parte. You never know if the pharmacies are closed or they are out of stock. It can also be taken in advance.
  • Do not take if already pregnant.
  • Check your weight: Copper IUD isn’t affected by weight. However, the efficacy of the morning after pills is affected by your weight. levonogestrel containing pills may not work if you weigh 70Kg or more and EllaOne may work less well if you weight 88Kg  or more.
  • Copper IUD and levonogestrel pills do not affect breastfeeding. However, if you use EllaOne, pump and throw your breast milk for 24hrs after you take it.
  • Do not use two different types of morning after pills (e.g. Norlevo and EllaOne) at the same time or at least 5 days from each other.

See doctor if:

  •  Period delayed more than 7 days
  • You experience sudden pain in lower tummy
  • Side effects do not go away after a few days.

Takeaway: A morning after pill will determine what your next 9 months may look like. The earlier you take it, the better it works.

Hope this was helpful. Sharing is caring!

About the Author

Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills at the Buea Regional Hospital and also serves as the Focal Point for Supply Chain Management of drugs in the district of Buea.

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