Is it safe to use the morning after pill?

The morning after pill is a type of emergency contraception that is taken after unprotected sex to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Many women have used this treatment, but there is often confusion surrounding how many times you can take it and how safe it is to use. To help clear things up, this simple guide should provide some answers to your questions.

How does it work?

Emergency contraception can be used if you have unprotected sex, or the method of contraception you have used hasn’t worked, such as if you have forgotten to take your contraceptive pill or the condom ripped. Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, the tablet works by preventing or delaying the release of an egg from the ovary during ovulation or by interfering with the fertilisation of the egg.

How do I use it?

There are two types of morning after pill: ellaOne and Levonelle. Levonelle can be taken up to three days after sex, while ellaOne is effective for up to five days. However, the tablet should be taken as soon as possible after an episode of unprotected sex and should not replace normal contraceptive methods. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it will be.

Is it safe to use?

Both Levonelle and ellaOne are considered safe for most women. There has been no evidence to suggest that taking the emergency contraceptive pill has any negative impact on your health or long-term effect on your fertility. However, it’s important to remember that it is designed for one-off use and should only be considered as a last resort in emergency situations. Healthcare experts generally advise that you do not use the morning after pill on a regular basis as it is less effective than the contraceptive pill or condoms. While it is possible to take the pill several times in one month, it may cause changes in your menstrual cycle. It’s also worth bearing in mind that neither Levonelle nor ellaOne will protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

There are also certain medicines that can react with the pill and make it less effective. If you want to make sure that the medication you are taking is safe to use with the morning after pill, read the patient information leaflet that comes with the pack or speak to your doctor.

Are there any side effects?

As with any type of medicine, there are some possible side effects associated with the morning after pill. Common symptoms include headaches, stomach pains, nausea, menstrual changes, fatigue, breast tenderness, vomiting and dizziness. However, in most cases these symptoms are temporary and not serious.

If you find that you have to use the morning after pill several times within one month, it may be worth getting in contact with your GP to discuss using a different method of contraception that is more suitable for you.

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