Here’s What Happens If You Take The Morning-After Pill All The Time


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Health

Let’s get to the bottom of this, once and for all.

1. The

morning-after pill is a form of emergency
contraception that can prevent pregnancy when
taken after unprotected sex.

The morning-after pill is a form of emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy when taken after unprotected sex.

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It comes in a few different
forms, but the “morning-after pill” most
often refers to Plan B One-Step (and generics
like Next Choice One Dose), which can be
purchased over-the-counter. It’s a single pill
with a high dose of levonorgestrel, the same
progestin hormone found in many birth control
pills, and it can be used up to 72 hours (three
days) after unprotected sex.

Another pill option is ella, or
ulipristal acetate, which can be used up to 120
hours (five days) after unprotected sex, but it
requires a prescription. Both Plan B and ella
primarily work by delaying ovulation, and they
may in some cases also work by preventing a
fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Although we’ll focus on the pills in this
article, it’s worth mentioning that the copper
IUD can also be used as an emergency
contraceptive. It’s extremely
effective if inserted within five days of
unprotected sex and offers pregnancy protection
for up to 10 years.

ID: 10679450

2. FYI:
The morning-after pill is not the same
as the abortion pill.

FYI: The morning-after pill is not the same as the abortion pill.

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Emergency contraception pills like Plan B and
ella will not terminate an existing pregnancy.
It’s not the same as the abortion pill,
otherwise known as a
medical abortion, where a person takes a
combination of mifepristone and misoprostol to
terminate an early pregnancy.

ID: 10679462

4. First
let’s start with ella, the prescription-only
morning-after pill. This one should not be
taken more than once per menstrual cycle.

First let's start with ella, the prescription-only morning-after pill. This one should not be taken more than once per menstrual cycle.

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Ella has
a different active ingredient than Plan B, and
according to their website, it shouldn’t be
taken more than once in a menstrual cycle. “I
would say repeated use of ella has not been
well studied and is not recommended,” says
Streicher.

Additionally, using ella with hormonal birth
control pills can reduce the effectiveness of
both at preventing pregnancy, so you should
wait at least five days after taking ella to
resume your birth control.

But because ella requires a doctor’s visit and
prescription, you’d probably have to jump
through a lot of hoops to take it frequently.
So aside from not being recommended, repeated
use of ella would also take up a lot of your
time and money. So… just don’t do it.

ID: 10702038

5. On the
other hand, taking Plan B is basically like
taking a ton of birth control at once. And it
isn’t going to hurt you if you take it multiple
times.

On the other hand, taking Plan B is basically like taking a ton of birth control at once. And it isn't going to hurt you if you take it multiple times.

View this image ›

Actually, the morning-after pill is even safer
and more tolerable than taking a ton of birth
control because it only contains
levonorgestrel, whereas most birth control
pills also have estrogen. “In the past, women
who needed emergency contraception would just
take a super-high dose of birth control, but
the estrogen just caused a lot of nausea and
vomiting,” Dweck tells BuzzFeed Health.

So they made one pill with fewer side effects
but enough hormones to still prevent pregnancy.
“It’s very safe and well tolerated, even in
women who aren’t able to take some birth
control pills because of clotting disorders,”
says Dweck.

Even if you take it while you’re already on
hormonal birth control — for example, after
missing more than three pills and having
unprotected sex — it’s still safe. “It’s not
going to harm you, it’s really just a little
extra progesterone on top of the birth
control,” Dweck says.

ID: 10680307

6. But,
obviously, taking such a high dose of hormones
could cause irregular bleeding and mess with
your menstrual cycle — which isn’t ideal.

But, obviously, taking such a high dose of hormones could cause irregular bleeding and mess with your menstrual cycle — which isn't ideal.

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“About 16% of women report side effects like
nausea, vomiting, or irregular bleeding,” says
Dweck. But the main downside is that it can
cause a lot of menstrual irregularity.
Depending on how often you take the
morning-after pill, it can throw off your cycle
for weeks or even months, says Streicher. And a
messed up cycle can make it harder to prevent
pregnancy if you aren’t using another method
like condoms.

“You never know for sure when you are
ovulating, even less so if you have taken a big
dose of hormones that may interfere with your
normal cycle,” Streicher says. So you should
always remember to use a backup barrier method
when you’re having sex after taking emergency
contraception.

Plus, it’s a lot of unnecessary hormones when
you just could be on a more reliable, low-dose
method. For instance, if you have unprotected
sex 20 times in one month (and take Plan B 20
times in one month), that’s a lot of progestin
to take as opposed to taking a small, regular
dose every day — not to mention a lot of
spotting or bleeding.

ID: 10679461

7. But
there’s no evidence that repeated use of Plan B
will cause permanent damage to your
reproductive organs or infertility.

But there's no evidence that repeated use of Plan B will cause permanent damage to your reproductive organs or infertility.

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“It’s a very safe drug and taking it multiple
times won’t kill you or cause any permanent
damage, infertility, or even blood clots,”
Dweck says. So no, there are really no
long-term implications of regularly using the
morning-after pill.

“We know that hormones in emergency
contraceptives, which are just a different
dosage of the same ones found in birth control
pills, have no impact on fertility whatsoever,”
says Streicher. So it’s best not to panic or
stress if you’ve taken it many times or point
to that as a cause of any fertility issues down
the road.

ID: 10680330

8. So why
do the experts still advise against using Plan
B regularly? Because it simply isn’t as
effective as other birth control methods.

So why do the experts still advise against using Plan B regularly? Because it simply isn't as effective as other birth control methods.

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Unlike more reliable methods, the morning-after
pill’s effectiveness decreases depending on how
long you wait to take it after unprotected sex,
says Streicher. According to Plan B’s prescribing
information, it helps prevent nearly 7 out
of 8 potential pregnancies (about 87%), but

other studies on levonorgestrel have found
the effectiveness can vary from 52-100%.

Compared to the efficacy of other birth control
methods, this isn’t really your best bet for
pregnancy prevention. For instance, long-acting
methods like the
IUD and
implant are both over 99% effective.

Combined birth control pills are also over
99% effective with perfect use or 91% effective
with typical use.

“So you really have a higher chance of getting
pregnant if the morning-after pill is your
primary birth control,” says Dweck.

ID: 10698594

9. What
can increase your risk of infertility is
all the unprotected (so, without a condom) sex
you have before taking the morning-after pill.

What can increase your risk of infertility is all the unprotected (so, without a condom) sex you have before taking the morning-after pill.

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“Frequent unprotected sex means you’re more
likely to get an STI, and we know that
untreated STIs impact fertility and ovarian
function,” says Streicher. And it’s easy for
STIs to go untreated when many of them have no
symptoms at all.

The number one cause of infertility is age, but
the number one preventable cause of
infertility is actually
untreated chlamydia — which can also cause
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), potentially
fatal ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic
pain.

“Even if taking emergency contraception
frequently doesn’t cause harm, it could still
technically be harmful if it means you’re
having a lot of unprotected sex and exposing
yourself to STIs,” Dweck says.

ID: 10680270

10.
Finally, emergency contraception can get pricey
— up to $50 a pop — so frequent use will cost
you a lot of money.

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“It’s a very, very expensive way to provide
contraception and there are so many better,
cheaper options,” says Streicher. For instance,
Plan
B sold over the counter at most pharmacies
and grocery stores usually costs about $50 per
pill, with generics usually priced around $40
(but we also recently found it on
Seamless for almost $70).

So depending on how often you take it, you
could be spending hundreds of dollars each
month, and that’s for a product that’s less
effective than other options.

ID: 10698809

11.
There’s definitely a time and place for the
morning-after pill, but it’s not the most
effective or affordable option for reliable
birth control.

There's definitely a time and place for the morning-after pill, but it's not the most effective or affordable option for reliable birth control.

View this image ›

The morning-after pill is an amazing drug,
Dweck says, and it exists because there are
situations where it is necessary or the right
option for some women.

“But it still shouldn’t be used on a regular
basis because we have so many reliable forms of
birth control that cause fewer side effects,
cost less, and that are more effective at
preventing pregnancy,” Dweck says.

If you’re on the birth control pill but still
take emergency contraception occasionally
because you missed a few pills or your pack
looks like a game of Connect 4, you might want
to consider a long-acting method like the IUD
or implant.

Remember, the ~right~ birth control option will
vary from person to person, so talk to your
doctor about your unique lifestyle and
contraceptive needs, and they’ll help you find
something that works for you.

ID: 10691303

12. And
if you’ve already taken it a handful of times,
don’t stress or worry that you caused long-term
damage — it’s totally safe.

View this image ›

ID: 10700511

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Tagged:morning
after pill, birth control,
conception, contraception,
ella,
emergency
contraception, emergency
contraceptives, plan b, plan b
one step, pregnancy,
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