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Levonorgestrel is the generic name for an emergency contraceptive pill. It is sold under various brand names including Plan B One Step, Next Choice One Dose, Take Action, and My Way. All brands are just as effective as one another. Levonorgestrel reduces the risk of pregnancy when taken after unprotected sex. It is available at most drugstores and pharmacies, family planning centers, and health department clinics without a doctor’s prescription. Levonorgestrel is commonly called "the morning after pill."
You should take one dose of levonorgestrel, as directed on the package. Taking more doses doesn’t offer any greater protection, and it may make you feel unwell. When taken as directed, side effects are uncommon. However, you may notice your period is lighter or heavier than usual, or earlier or later than expected. You may also feel a little nauseous, dizzy, or lightheaded. Breast tenderness is also not uncommon. If the nausea causes you to throw up within two hours of taking levonorgestrel, you should take another dose.
While you don’t need a prescription to get levonorgestrel, you may need one to claim the cost on an eligible health insurance policy. Some people also qualify for free or heavily discounted levonorgestrel through their local health departments or Planned Parenthood clinics. It’s not a bad idea to see a doctor before taking levonorgestrel to ensure you’re not allergic to the drug. Levonorgestrel is most effective when taken within three days of unprotected sex. When taken during this window, a woman’s risk of falling pregnant is reduced by between 75 and 89%. You can take the pill up to five days after unprotected sex, but the risk of preventing pregnancy falls the longer you wait. Being overweight will also reduce levonorgestrel’s effectiveness.
Since taking levonorgestrel soon after unprotected sex boosts its effectiveness, it’s a good idea to keep some in your medicine cabinet for convenient access.
You should have your period as normal within three weeks of taking levonorgestrel. If you don’t get your period, you should take a pregnancy test to check whether the drug was effective.
Levonorgestrel is intended as an emergency birth control solution only. It does not prevent the spread of diseases. It’s no substitute for using a condom. It also shouldn’t be relied on as a regular form of birth control. You should start using regular birth control after taking levonorgestrel as it does not provide protection for sexual encounters after you’ve taken the dose.
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