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What to Expect With Emergency Contraception

If you had unprotected sex, you may be wondering what to expect if you use emergency contraception. This backup birth control method may cause several side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and cramps. Although emergency contraception does not usually change the timing of your period, contact your healthcare provider if you have not started your period within three weeks of using this pill.

An Introduction to Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) is used to prevent an unintended pregnancy after birth control failure or unprotected sex. Some forms of emergency contraception are approved for sale without a prescription to people over the age of 17, while other forms require a prescription, and one form (Plan B One-Step™) is available to all women without a prescription, with no age restrictions. 
 

Are There Side Effects?

The side effects of emergency contraception will vary, depending on the particular form you use. In general, emergency contraception is safe and well tolerated. Serious side effects are uncommon.
 
Some of the more common side effects of emergency contraception pills include the following:
 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in your period.
 
Progestin-only pills (Plan B One-Step™, Next Choice®) are generally better tolerated than combination estrogen and progestin pills.
 
If you vomit within one hour of taking your EC pill(s), you may not have absorbed enough of the medicine for it to be effective and may need to take another dose. Call your healthcare provider or pharmacist to see if you need to take another dose. Taking EC pills with food may help prevent an upset stomach.
 
The copper intrauterine device can cause cramps and heavy bleeding during your period if it is left in to prevent pregnancy. It may also cause infections of the pelvis, but this occurs only rarely.
 
Pregnancy and Pain

Emergency Contraception Information

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