The Morning After Pill as Emergency Contraception

The morning after pill (or emergency contraception) is a type of birth control, but it’s used for emergency situations after you think you may have become impregnated.

The name, Morning After Pill, basically comes from the fact that you take it the morning after intercourse.


It contains specialised doses of similar hormones to the normal contraceptive pill to help prevent fertilisation or knock the fertilised egg out of commission. The way it actually works depends on what time of the month it is, or where you are in your cycle. Sometimes it works by delaying ovulation, sometimes it blocks fertilisation completely, and sometimes it prevents the fertilised egg from joining the uterus.

If you’ve already become pregnant you shouldn’t take the morning after pill as a form of abortion. You can get it in Australia at just about any pharmacy without a prescription, but you have to be at least 17 years old. If buying it over the counter in Australia you will be asked to have a private consultation with the pharmacist to make sure it is the best option for your situation.

via giphy

When Should You Use the Morning After Pill?

The morning after pill is an emergency backup only. If you had sex without using any birth control, or if a condom broke, or if your diaphragm slipped out of place, or if you forgot a pill, or if anything else happened that could facilitate pregnancy, you might want to be safe and go for a morning after pill.

The Morning After Pill is usually a series of two tablets.  One is to be taken as soon as possible after intercourse (or up to 72 hours afterwards) and the second table is to be taken 12 hours after the first.

It works because conception doesn’t always happen right away after sex. In fact, that’s not usually the case. Conception may take place over the next few days following intercourse while the sperm are swimming through your fallopian tubes searching for a viable egg.

That’s why you can still take the morning after pill several hours later. The progestogen-only morning after pill is safe while breast feeding, because it does not cause a continuous change in hormones.

Remember that the morning after pill is NOT the same thing as the abortion pill (RU-486).

If you’re pregnant already it’s going to be completely ineffective. It won’t do any harm to the foetus, but it won’t work and it will just be a waste of money.

The Risks of Taking the Morning After Pill

There are some instances where you might not be able to take the morning after pill. If you’re allergic to anything in the pill, if you’ve been taking medications such as St. John’s Wort or barbiturates (which will decrease the pill’s effectiveness), or if you’ve been having unexplained bleeding from your vagina, you should avoid the morning after pill or at least talk to your doctor about taking it.

Some side effects to the morning after pill

A lot of woman are said to feel nauseated after taking the morning after pill.  Other common side affects include:

  • Headaches
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain or cramps in the lower abdomen
  • Dizziness

These usually only last for a couple days, and you might not experience all of the possible side effects. The morning after pill isn’t 100% effective, either.

It’s estimated that two women out of every hundred that use the pill the right way will still get pregnant despite the extra protection. When taking the morning after pill, make sure you follow the instructions exactly as they are listed on the box.

Some brands have two pills that need to be taken, so both need to be taken as per the directions if you want it to help.  Most other brands only have one pill to make the process easier. Try to take the morning after pill at least 72 hours after sex.

It loses effectiveness if you wait longer, but it’s still potentially effective.

Finally, plan ahead.

Mistakes can happen to anybody, but proper planning and birth control methods can prevent future scares, or at least limit their occurrence.


If you have any further questions or would like more information on the morning after pill or any other types of contraception, contact your local family planning clinic or GP. 



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