How Often Can You Take The Morning After Pill?

Dr. Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

You can take the morning after pill more than once per month. But you should not rely on the morning after pill as a regular form of contraception against pregnancy. This is because it’s designed to only be used as emergency contraception after unprotected sex. Taking the morning after pill regularly can affect your monthly periods and make them irregular.

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There are 3 types of morning after pill. These are:

You should consider taking a morning after pill as soon as you know you’ve had unprotected sex. Ideally, this would be within 24 hours of having had unprotected sex as this is when they are most effective at preventing pregnancy.

Unprotected sex occurs when you have sex and:

  • forget to take your contraceptive pill or use another form of regular hormonal contraception
  • use a barrier method, such as a condom, but it splits or comes off during sex
  • do not use contraception to prevent pregnancy

Levonelle and generic Levonelle (levonorgestrel) are the same type of morning after pill, and need to be taken within 72 hours to be effective.

EllaOne contains ulipristal as the active ingredient and you need to take it within 120 hours to be effective.

The morning after pill does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you have unprotected sex after taking a morning after pill, it will not protect you from pregnancy and you may need to take another one.

How often can you take the morning after pill?

When it comes to how often you can take the morning after pill, it depends on the type of emergency contraception pill you take.

You can take EllaOne, Levonelle or generic Levonelle (levonorgestrel) more than once per month. However, you cannot take Levonelle and EllaOne in the same menstrual cycle, if taken within the last 7 days.

EllaOne and Levonorgestrel (Levonelle) both work by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from your ovaries). If you’ve already ovulated, then it’s unlikely they will work to prevent pregnancy. This is why you may want to consider a regular form of contraception that prevents ovulation, such as the contraceptive pill.

Is it bad to take the morning after pill regularly?

You should only take the morning after pill as a form of emergency contraception, after unprotected sex. It’s best to avoid taking the morning after pill regularly, as doing so can lead to irregular periods and changes to your normal menstrual cycle. There’s also no guarantee that the morning after pill will work every time.

The only way to know if the morning after pill has worked is to take a pregnancy test 3 weeks after you’ve taken it. Or you can wait for the end of your menstrual cycle. If your period is more than 7 days late or unusual in any way, you should do a pregnancy test to check if you are pregnant.

If you have been taking the morning after pill regularly, you should consider contraception options that you can use long term, such as the:

  • contraceptive pill, such as the combined pill or mini pill (progestogen only pill)
  • contraceptive patch or ring
  • contraceptive implant or injection
  • contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) which is hormonal, or copper IUD (non hormonal)
  • male condoms
  • female condoms, cap or diaphragm

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Emergency contraception vs the contraceptive pill

There are 2 main types of contraceptive pill and they are equally reliable ways to prevent pregnancy long term. The mini pill contains progestogen, based on progesterone which is a female sex hormone that your body naturally produces. The combined pill contains a mixture of oestrogen and progesterone-based active ingredients.

Taking a daily contraceptive pill helps prevent ovulation for the whole time you are taking the pill. The contraceptive pill also works in 2 other ways by:

  • thickening the mucus at the cervix (so sperm find it harder to get into the womb)
  • thickening the lining of your womb (so an egg cannot implant)

These 3 actions mean you’re 90 to 99% protected from getting pregnant if you have sex, even if you use a condom and it splits.

Emergency contraception pills contain either progestogen (such as levonorgestrel in Levonelle) or ulipristal acetate (in EllaOne). Ulipristal acetate acts on progesterone receptors in your body in the same way as the progestogen levonorgestrel. However, Ulipristal is more effective at preventing ovulation than levonorgestrel. Although, neither emergency contraceptive pill will be effective if you have already ovulated.

Timing when you will ovulate or even knowing when you’ve ovulated is difficult to find out. So it might be worth considering going on a regular contraceptive pill to prevent ovulation in the first place for a more reliable way to protect yourself against pregnancy.

The amount of progestogen in an emergency contraceptive pill is much higher than that in a mini pill or combined pill. This is why side effects from the morning after pill, such as nausea and irregular bleeding, are more likely.

Neither the contraceptive pill nor the morning after pill (emergency contraception) protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only method of contraception that can help protect you from STIs.

If you wait more than 120 hours to take the morning after pill, you may become pregnant and need to decide if you want to terminate the pregnancy. The morning after pill is not the same as an abortion pill, and you will need to contact your doctor or a sexual health clinic for advice on your next steps.

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Article created: 09 May 2022






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