The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception that helps to prevent pregnancy. It’s designed to be used after having unprotected sex or when your birth control method didn’t work.
There are two morning after pills available in the US: Plan B (and generic versions of it) and Ella. Ella contains ulipristal acetate, which can help delay ovulation and prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Plan B contains levonorgestrel, a progestin similar to what can be found in regular contraceptive pills. Both pills can help prevent pregnancy if you missed your birth control pill, if the condom broke or if you’ve had unprotected sex.
Learn the truth about some of the myths surrounding the morning after pill so you can make an informed decision if you need it.
Myth: You Need a Prescription to Buy the Morning After Pill
There’s no prescription required to get one type of morning after pill. Plan B One-Step, and generic versions of it (such as New Day), are sold over-the-counter at drugstores, and you don’t have to show an ID or ask a pharmacist to dispense it. You should be able to find it on the shelf near other sex and intimacy products, such as lubes and condoms, though in some cases it might be behind the pharmacist’s counter. You can also order Plan B online from Amazon and Target. Even though you don’t need a prescription for Plan B, if you have insurance then your plan may cover the cost of the medication if you get it prescribed by a medical provider and filled through a pharmacist, saving you money.
However, another type of morning after pill, Ella, does require a prescription. Nurx can help you select the best type of emergency contraception for your needs, and can prescribe Ella and deliver it to your door (if you have time for that) or call the prescription in to a pharmacy near you.
Myth: You Can’t Buy the Morning After Pill if You’re Underage
You don’t have to be 18 to get emergency contraception. Plan B One-Step and its generic versions are available to people of all ages.
In addition to the lack of age restrictions, remember that there are no gender restrictions. Men can buy the morning after pill, too!
Myth: The Hormones in the Morning After Pill Will Mess With Your System
Ella contains ulipristal acetate which will affect the hormones that control ovulation in your current menstrual cycle. This means it can change the date your next period arrives, or make it heavier or lighter than usual. By your next menstrual cycle everything will return to its usual pattern.
If your period is more than a week late after taking the morning after pill, you should take a pregnancy test. According to studies, if emergency contraception doesn’t work and you do become pregnant, it will have no long-term effects on the pregnancy or the baby.
Myth: The Morning After Pill Can Stop a Pregnancy
Both morning-after pills, Ella and Plan B work by stopping or delaying ovulation so a pregnancy can’t occur (no egg, nothing to fertilize). One an egg has been fertilized and implanted in the uterus taking the morning-after pill will have no effect, which is why it’s important to take the morning-after pill ASAP after sex, so you can stop ovulation from occurring. If the morning after pill is taken by someone who is already pregnant, emergency contraception will not interrupt this pregnancy.
Myth: You Can’t Use the Morning After Pill More Than Once
You can take the morning after pill on multiple occasions. Both types of medication are safe when used for emergency purposes and are not linked to any serious side effects. In addition, the morning after pill does not affect fertility, so it won’t harm your ability to become pregnant in the future.
However, keep in mind that the morning after pill is not recommended for and has not been tested for regular birth control use. Other types of FDA-approved birth control, such as birth control pills like Tri-Sprintec or vaginal rings like NuvaRing, are much more effective at preventing pregnancy and typically cost less.
Myth: The Morning-After Pill Will Make You Sick
Side effects for the morning after pill are typically mild and only last for a day or two. These minor side effects may include headache, nausea, breast tenderness, mild abdominal pain, fatigue, and dizziness.
In addition, some women experience a slight change in their next menstrual period after using emergency contraception. These changes may include your period coming earlier or later than usual, a heavier or lighter period than usual, more or less menstrual pain than usual, and light bleeding in between periods.
Myth: Emergency Contraception Can Hurt Your Fertility
There is no evidence that Ella or Plan B will affect your fertility and chances of getting pregnant later on. In fact, your fertility will be working as normal so soon after taking emergency contraception that you will need to use a regular contraceptive, like condoms, the next time you have sex to avoid unplanned pregnancy.
Myth: If You Take EC You’re Protected Until Your Period
Emergency contraception, as the name suggests, should only be taken in occasionally, as a back-up method after unprotected sex. It does not replace a regular method of contraception. Ella and Plan B morning-after pills can only help protect you after a single instance of unprotected sex and will not continue to protect you for future instances, so after taking the morning after pill you should start using condoms until your next period.
In addition, keep in mind that emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you still need to use a condom if you’re unsure of your partner’s status.
Truth: You Should Take EC ASAP
The sooner you take it, the more likely emergency contraception is to be effective. It works by stopping ovulation, and you never know exactly when you’ll ovulate. While you can take Ella up to five days after unprotected sex, and take Plan B and its generics up to three days after unprotected sex, it’s best to take it as soon as possible. For example, if you ovulate the day after you have sex and take the morning-after pill on day 2. It won’t be effective. Sex Ed refresher: Sperm can survive in the body for up to 5 days.
Use these facts about the morning after pill to make the right choices for your sexual health. If you request the morning after pill through Nurx™ the medical team will be available to answer any questions about emergency contraceptives.
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