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How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

Morning-after pills are emergency contraceptives that are used as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, many women are unaware about the basics of the pill, the way it works, and its efficacy. The following article provides some information regarding the effectiveness and side effects of the pill.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
Morning-after pill is quite commonly used by women worldwide. Despite the name, this birth control pill can be used within three days after intercourse. Any type of contraceptive, including the emergency type, is associated with certain health concerns. So, it is imperative to learn about this contraceptive, before relying on it.
What is Morning-After Pill?
The use of morning-after pill (generic name levonorgestrel) was approved by FDA in 2006. It is available as an over-the-counter oral medicine and is a drug that prevents unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. This is really a miracle pill for those not using contraception methods, or if the current contraception is not working. In medical science, this birth control pill and other contraceptives administered (after intercourse) for the purpose of stopping pregnancy, are collectively referred to as emergency contraceptives (EC) or postcoital contraceptives.
How the Pill Works
The drug 'levonorgestrel' is formulated by using synthetic progesterone in higher doses, more than the amount used in regular types of birth control pills. This high concentration of progesterone present in these pills works against two processes, which are responsible for conception. The first is preventing ovulation or delayed release of eggs from the ovaries, thus stopping fertilization. The second way is by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg (blastocyst or embryo) in the womb. This is achieved by altering the lining of the uterus in such a way that the embryo fails to embed in the womb.
As per the medical experts, one can take the pill within 72 hours of having an unprotected intercourse, so as to prevent the pregnancy. Furthermore, the intake after three days will not have any profound effect in stopping ovulation, or preventing implantation of embryo. Considering the fact that this oral contraceptive is effective for three days, the name 'morning-after pill' is a bit confusing for prospective users. There are also some brands that can be used for up to 5 days (120 hours) after having unprotected intercourse. However, the effectiveness of such brands remains doubtful.
Effectiveness
The effectiveness of this birth control pill is satisfactory in clinical trials, but not 100 percent. There is less than 10 percent chance of conception, even after taking this emergency contraceptive. Although the time period for which the morning-after pill works is claimed to 72 hours, it is most effective if ingested within 12 hours of having unprotected sex. The earlier one uses it, the higher is the efficiency and vice versa. It is necessary to keep in mind that this contraceptive does not work for the already pregnant women. Precisely, it is a preventive measure for pregnancy and not an abortion drug.
Side Effects
The intake of this birth control pill is considered to be safe and its side effects are observed in rare cases. The previous versions are known to trigger nausea and dizziness, but the latest contraception pills are believed to cause no problems. Only one out of 60 women report vomiting after the intake of this drug. The other mild effects include headache, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, breast tenderness, and sickness feeling. Nevertheless, women who have an underlying liver problem and porphyria (genetic problem) symptoms are strictly recommended to avoid this emergency contraceptive.
Some of the most popular emergency contraceptives are Plan B, Next Choice, and Preven. After administering morning-after pill, one's regular menstrual cycle may get delayed, by one week or so. It is recommended to consult the concerned doctor before opting for these pills. This is because they contain a high dose of artificial hormone. Also, it is better to avoid the regular administration of emergency contraceptives for safety purposes.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.