Ask Ella: What are the morning after pill side effects?

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We understand that taking the morning after pill can be intimidating. We think you should ask all the questions you need to make you feel confident about the medicine you have chosen to take.

That’s why we’ve set up #AskElla - a forum for you to ask your questions and get answers you can trust.

People ask about the side effects of emergency contraception a lot, so we spoke to Deborah Evans^, a pharmacist with over 30 years of experience, to find out more about them.

How Does The Morning After Pill Work?


Lets cover the basics: the morning after pill works by temporarily delaying ovulation, which means the egg is not released into the fallopian tube. This stops any rogue sperm from reaching the egg, so fertilisation can not take place. For a more in-depth look at how the morning after pill works, see here.

The morning after pill can only protect you from pregnancy at the time it is taken. In fact, your fertility returns so quickly that you should use a barrier method, such as condoms, until your next period.

The morning after pill can actually make hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill, temporarily less effective. Therefore, we recommend you use a barrier method, like condoms, alongside your regular contraceptive until your next period.

What are the morning after pill side effects?

First things first: remember that both types of emergency contraceptive pills – ellaOne and levonorgestrel– are well tolerated by most women and many people experience no side effects at all.

“Like all medicines, the morning after pill can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them, and most women will not experience any side effects at all,” says Deborah.

If you take the morning after pill, you may experience one or more of the following side effects:

  • Headache

  • Stomach pain

  • Feeling sick or vomiting

  • Changes in mood

  • Tender breasts

If you throw up within three hours of taking ellaOne or levonorgestrel, consult your pharmacist or sexual health clinic as you may need to take another dose for the emergency contraception to be effective.

Less common side effects include:

  • Menstrual spotting

  • Heavy periods

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Indigestion or wind

  • Diarrhea

  • Dry mouth

  • Discharge or vaginal inflammation

  • Generally feeling unwell

“If you are concerned at all about a potential side effect then talk to your pharmacist or other healthcare professional and they can advise you,” says Deborah, “some side effects might be an indication that you are pregnant e.g. breast tenderness, a delayed period, nausea and tiredness as the morning-after-pill is not 100% effective at preventing a pregnancy.”

 “If you have these symptoms, then use a pregnancy test to find out what might be causing the symptoms,” she continues, “some women experience mild to moderate dizziness after the MAP and so take care if you have these symptoms if driving or using machines.”

Most side effects are mild, but if you experience any unusual side effects, including any not on this list, then contact your GP. For a full list of potential side-effects, please see the patient information leaflet included in the packet.

Does The Morning After Pill Delay Your Period?

Most women will still have their period as expected after taking the morning after pill, but some may find that their next period is a few days early or a few days late.

“The morning after pill can affect a woman’s next period (delaying it by up to 5-7 days). The only way to tell if the morning after pill has worked is to do a pregnancy test if the period is late, lighter or heavier than usual, 3 weeks after the unprotected sex or if there are any concerns at all about pregnancy,” says Deborah.

If your period is more than seven days late after taking ellaOne, or five days late after taking levonorgestrel, or if it is unusually heavy or light, you may want to take a pregnancy test, or talk to your GP or Pharmacist.

Does the morning after pill affect fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest that taking the morning after pill will affect your ability to have children later on. In fact, emergency contraception is only effective for singular use and one dose will not protect you from pregnancy if you have unprotected sex again during the same menstrual cycle.

“The morning-after-pill (MAP) can be taken after any episode of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure without causing any effect on future fertility. Some women believe that they can only take it a few times before it impacts on being able to get pregnant in the future, but this is not true,” says Deborah.

What Is In The Morning After Pill?

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ellaOne contains ulipristal acetate, which can temporarily stop progesterone from causing you to ovulate.

Levonorgestrel is a man-made version of the natural hormone progesterone and works by delaying ovulation.

Allergic reactions to either ingredient are extremely rare, but you should consult your pharmacist or GP if you have any concerns. ellaOne have a handy guide to the things that could affect whether ellaOne is the right medicine for you, you can find the full list here

Don’t Let The Fear Of Side Effects Put You Off

The reality is that many women don’t experience any adverse effects from taking the morning after pill. If there are any side effects, the vast majority are mild and short lived.

“The morning-after-pill is generally well tolerated, and any side effect is generally short-lived. If you are concerned at all about side effects and this is putting you off taking the MAP, then please do talk to your pharmacist or other healthcare professional who can listen to your concerns and reassure you,” says Deborah.

“If you still don’t want to take the morning after pill then there is an alternative method of emergency contraception called the Copper intrauterine device (coil),” she continues, “which is considered the most effective type of emergency contraception.”

“You will need to book an appointment, and have it fitted within 5 days of unprotected sex”, she continues, “we recommend that women considering the coil should also take the morning after pill as they may change their mind about the coil or can’t get an appointment in time.”

Ask for ellaOne, the most effective morning after pill. Please see for verification.

If you are feeling (or have felt) worried, embarrassed or ashamed for taking the morning after pill, remember that you, and you alone, have the right to decide what happens to your body.

Our #MyMorningAfter stories are here to provide you with reassurance and show you that you are not alone in this experience. Have you have taken the morning after pill? Do you want to share your experience? Click here

^Deborah Evans does not endorse any products or brands.


ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.

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Leo Kent