Stephens College

The Morning After Pill

Morning after pills are emergency contraceptives, the purpose of which is to prevent pregnancy after a woman’s birth control method failed or she had unprotected sex. They are not used as a primary birth control method and employed as back-up contraception only. They are over-the-counter medicines available without prescription.

Do not confuse these pills with abortion pills since they do not end pregnancy. These pills take one of the following actions depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle; keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, delay ovulation, or block fertilization. 

When to Take It?

Morning-after pills can be taken right after you’ve had unprotected intercourse for up to five days. However, for maximum effectiveness, these pills should be taken as early as possible. Moreover, you can also take these pills anytime during your menstrual cycle.

Who Should Take It?

The Morning-after pill should be taken under the following circumstances:

  • In case of a sexual assault
  • Unprotected sex
  • The condom leaked, slipped or broke
  • Error in the calculation of the fertility period


How Effective Is It?

Morning-after pills decrease the likelihood of pregnancy by 75 %-89 %. The earlier it is taken, the more effective it is. This method is used as emergency contraception and cannot be used as a replacement of regular birth control. It is a safe option; however, there are better contraceptive methods out there. You do not know when you might need them; therefore it is a good idea to keep them handy just like condoms in case of emergencies. If you are looking for a long-term contraception plan, contact your doctor.


Plan B and Plan B One-Step are the most common emergency contraceptive pills on the market and are available over-the-counter, and are effective at preventing pregnancy up to three days after unprotected sex. A newer pill in the market, EllaOne is equally effective for up to five days after having sex and is only available with a prescription. EllaOne works by delaying or stopping ovulation.


Although morning after pills are effective for preventing pregnancy after having unprotected sex; however, in comparison to other methods, it is not as effective and is not recommended for regular use. Moreover, even with the correct use, the pill can fail and is futile against sexually transmitted infections.

The Morning-after pill is not for everyone. Do not take the pill if:

  • You are already pregnant
  • You are taking certain medications that reduce the effectiveness of the pill
  • You are allergic to any component of the morning-after pill
  • You are younger than seventeen years

These pills have certain side effects that last a few days and may include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Heavier menstrual bleeding