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Emergency contraception - the morning after pill, including what to expect, side effects and what you need do
The 'morning after' pill is an emergency contraceptive but can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. It is used to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex and is 90% effective if taken in the first 24 hours after unprotected sex.
It becomes less effective the longer the time after unprotected intercourse.
The morning after pill contains hormones similar to those in regular contraceptive pills.
It may not work as well if used more than once in the same menstrual cycle.
The ‘morning after’ pill should be taken as soon as possible within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected sex. It is more effective if taken in the first 24 hours.
The hormone levonorgestrel, at a dose of 1500 micrograms, is taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. This is supplied as either two tablets (two x 75mg).
The same medication is also available over the counter from pharmacies as Postinor-2 (two tablets).
If you take oral contraceptive pills, continue taking them as usual.
The morning after pill is a very safe medication. Women who cannot take combined oral contraceptive pills for medical reasons can usually safely take the morning after pill.
You will need to inform the doctor of any medication you are currently taking, as some drugs interfere with the action of the morning after pill.
You may experience bleeding or spotting. This may occur soon after taking the pills or around the time you expect your next period. This bleeding is due to the morning after pill and does not necessarily mean you are not pregnant. Most women will get a normal period when expected after taking the MAP but your period may be late.
If you do not get a period within a month after taking the morning after pill you should have a pregnancy test.
Occasionally the morning after pill can cause headaches, nausea or dizziness which will usually be gone after two days.
Nausea or vomiting is unlikely, but if you do vomit within two hours of taking the tablets you will need to repeat the dose.
If you are concerned, contact Adelaide Sexual Health Centre, SHine SA or your local medical clinic.
Vaginal bleeding similar to a normal period may occur after taking the morning after pill, but you could still be pregnant.
It is important that you see your GP or Adelaide Sexual Health Centre staff in three weeks, for a urine pregnancy test if you do not have a normal period after the emergency contraceptive pill or are concerned about being pregnant.
If you need the morning after pill, you may also have been exposed to sexually transmitted infections.
It is important you can have a full sexually transmitted infection check-up. The results of all tests are available one week later.
The morning after pill can be bought over the counter at pharmacies or provided at Adelaide Sexual Health Centre , Shine or by a doctor.