Side Effects of the Morning After Pill

Which side effects are possible?

Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2019

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Key takeaways

  • Both ellaOne and Levonelle can cause side effects such as nausea, headache and abdominal pain

  • After taking the morning after pill, you may find that your next period is lighter or heavier than usual or that it comes earlier or later

  • If you vomit within three hours of taking the morning after pill you may need to take another dose

  • You can treat morning after pill side effects with over-the-counter medications and eating to reduce nausea

Contents of this article

The morning after pill causes side effects in some patients. This applies to Levonelle as well as EllaOne. The most common side effects of the morning after pill, also known as the emergency contraceptive pill, are nausea and stomach cramps as well as changes to your period. Your next period may begin earlier or later and the bleeding may be lighter or heavier than usual.

There are no known serious or long-term side effects. Any side effects are temporary and they ought to pass quickly. The following information will help you find out more about possible side effects of your emergency contraception and what you can do to lessen them.

Side effects of Levonelle

Levonelle (and Generic Levonelle) contains the hormone 'levonorgestrel', a synthetic version of the natural hormone progesterone. It is taken as a single 1.5 mg dose. The side effects of levonelle are:

  • nausea
  • feeling of abdominal pain or discomfort
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • vomiting (only affects a small number of people)

If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the morning after pill, you may require a second dose or an IUD (copper contraceptive coil) - speak to your doctor or pharmacy as soon as possible.

Side effects of ellaOne

If you have been prescribed ellaOne, read the patient information leaflet supplied with your pill and make sure you understand how and when to take the tablet. The most common side effects of ellaOne are:

  • period alterations
  • headache
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle pain
  • back ache

Side effects occur in less than 10 per cent of women who take ellaOne.

ellaOne can fail to work if taken in combination with other medications, for example the herbal remedy St.John’s Wort.

ellaOne can reduce the effectiveness of your normal birth control pill, so you need to wait 5 days before restarting your regular contraception and use other methods, such as condoms, until your regular contraception is effective again. If you’re not sure how long this is, you can speak to your doctor about this.

How can I lessen the side effects?

If you experience headaches or menstrual cramps after taking a morning after pill, you could use paracetamol, ibuprofen, or similar pain relief drugs to relieve these side effects. Some women find the following tips helpful in reducing the side effect of nausea:

  • Taking some over-the-counter anti-nausea medication about an hour before taking the morning after pill can help to prevent sickness (this may cause increased drowsiness in some people).
  • Taking the morning after pill with food can help prevent stomach problems.
  • Drinking milk and eating regular snacks can help with nausea.

How does the Morning After Pill affect my periods?

It is not uncommon to experience changes to your menstrual cycle after taking the morning after pill. Your next period may be heavier or lighter than it normally is. It may also arrive late or early, usually within a few days of your usual date. This is a common side effect caused by the relatively high dose of the hormone progesterone, the active substance in the morning after pill. If your period is a week or more late, take a pregnancy test.

Can the Morning After Pill lead to an ectopic pregnancy?

Studies have shown that the use of emergency contraceptive pills doesn’t increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, in common with all contraceptive methods it reduces the absolute risk of an ectopic pregnancy by preventing pregnancy in general. However, they may rarely occur and therefore it is important that you seek medical help if you suffer from persistent severe abdominal pain following treatment.

Are there any long-term risks to using the Morning After Pill?

There is currently no evidence that the morning after pill has any long-lasting effects on your health or fertility.

However, emergency contraceptives should only ever be used in an emergency and never as a regular type of contraception.

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Dr Charlotte Hammerton studied medicine at the University of Nottingham and since graduating has worked in hospitals in London, Kent, and Sussex.

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Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2019

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Emergency Contraception

You might need emergency contraception if you’ve recently had unprotected sex and want to reduce your risk of getting pregnant. Zava offers a morning after pill service, which includes a variety of options.




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