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What is the morning after pill and how does it work?

Andrea Taylor
Profile Picture of Andrea Taylor Andrea Taylor is a social worker in Edmonton, Alberta.  She works as an abortion and birth control counselor at a women's clinic.  Full Bio

What is the morning after pill and how does it work?

A: The morning after pill a form of emergency contraceptive. This is different than "the abortion pill", or RU-486. The morning after pill (which is generally actually four pills) can be taken after having unprotected sex in order to prevent a pregnancy from occurring. If you’re already pregnant, it does not interrupt the pregnancy, so it’s important to get to a pharmacy as soon as possible after having sex and take the medication as directed.

The morning after pill is a great backup plan if you have a condom break, realize you missed a pill, or run into some other situation that leads you to be concerned that you may become pregnant. It can prevent pregnancy 75-95 percent of the time. It only protects you from the previous encounter, and not for the rest of the month. The birth control pill is more like 99 percent effective, so keep in mind that other forms of birth control are certainly more effective as a "Plan A".

The morning after pill works much like the birth control pill, but in an emergency dose. It contains a high dose of progestin (no estrogen, as in the pill). Being a higher dose than a daily pill would be, women are more likely to experience nausea after taking it.

The morning after pill is available by prescription or over the counter in many areas; it tends to be less expensive with a prescription. It does not protect a woman against any STIs.

Another form of emergency contraceptive is having an IUD inserted. This can be done up to a week after unprotected sex.

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