Morning After Pill: How Effective is Emergency Contraception

If you're new to emergency contraception, you might have a lot of questions. We've compiled a list of what you need to know about emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill.

At Felix, we want to put you in control of birth control, and now we’re taking that a step further.

As of this month, we’ll be offering emergency contraception (the morning after pill) as an additional option in our birth control service.

When you choose the type of birth control you want to receive through Felix, you’ll get the option to include emergency contraception.

This puts you in a position to be ready should you need it.

By getting emergency contraception ahead of time, you won’t need to worry when you need it — and you’ll be able to take it as soon as possible, which improves the effectiveness.

What is the morning after pill?

The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception. It's used prevent pregnancy after birth control failure (such as a broken condom), unprotected sex, or if you forget to take your birth control pills.

Generally what people mean when they refer to the morning after pill is a levonorgestrel pill, the most well known of which is Plan B, but this category also includes Back Up Plan, Norlevo, and Option 2 Next Choice.

These all contain the same hormone, Levonorgestrel, and there is no difference in effectiveness between them.

How do you take the morning after pill?

Take the levonorgestrel morning after pill as soon as you can after unprotected sex. Simply swallow the tablet the way you would any other pill.

Make sure to check the label on your brand and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Don’t take more than the recommended dose of any kind of morning after pill, it won’t give you extra protection from pregnancy.

How does the morning after pill work?

The progestin hormone in the morning after pill, levonorgestrel, helps to prevent pregnancy in several ways. First, by temporarily stopping ovulation (the release of an egg from your ovaries).

It also makes vaginal fluid thicker to help prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, and changes the wall of your uterus to help stop a fertilized egg from attaching. 

How long after sex can you take the morning after pill?

The morning after pill works best when you take it within three days after unprotected sex.  You can take it up to five days after unprotected sex. However, the longer you wait to take it, the less effective it is.

How effective is the morning after pill?

It depends on when you take it, but the morning after pill can lower your chance of getting pregnant by 75-89%, if you take it within 3 days after unprotected sex.

These types of pill are less effective if you weigh over 155 lbs, but there are other options, such as a copper intrauterine device or another prescription called ulipristal acetate (Ella®).

Are there any side effects associated with the morning after pill?

Potential side effects of the morning after pill can include nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, tiredness, dizziness, changes in vaginal bleeding, breast tenderness, diarrhea, or headache.

If any of these symptoms persist, talk to your doctor.

Many ask what will happen with their period after taking the morning after pill. You may get a full normal period, or may get spotting or unscheduled bleeding after taking it.

If you haven’t gotten a period a month after taking emergency contraception, please make sure to take a pregnancy test

If you’re taking the morning after pill because you missed some of your birth control pills, you can still continue the rest of your birth control pack normally.

Just remember to use back-up contraception for at least a week as well, like condoms.

(A reminder on what to do if you miss a pill:

Is the morning after pill covered by benefits?

Emergency contraception is often covered by benefits or insurance if it is prescribed by a doctor, but you don’t need a prescription to access the morning after pill. Levonorgestrel pills are available in Canadian pharmacies without a prescription.

Are the other options for emergency contraception?

Yes. A second morning after pill, ulipristal acetate 30 mg, known by its brand name Ella, is now available in Canada, currently by prescription only.

Another alternative is a copper intrauterine device. Again, this is available prescription only. The device is inserted by a doctor within seven days of unprotected sex.

The copper IUD is generally thought to provide the most effective form of emergency contraception.

Ready to put the control back in birth control? Start your free assessment with Felix today.

Felix Team
Updated on:
February 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kelly Anderson
Family Physician, MD, CCFP(EM)

The Felix Health Guide is educational content providing clinically-accurate, balanced information on different ailments and treatments. Some ailments, medications, and treatments mentioned in the content may not be offered by Felix.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.

All articles