Woman's Health Centers

When Someone You Love Needs a Choice


Postcoital Hormonal Contraception (The Morning After Pill)

What is it?

The “Morning After Pill” is a pill that was designed to be used for contraception (“birth control”) and is approved by the FDA for that use. When prescribed as a “Morning After Pill”, it must be used under the supervision of a clinician, only as directed.

How does it work?

One pill is taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, then 12 hours later, one more pill is taken. Your next menstrual period should begin sometime within the next two to three weeks. When used in this manner, the pills may keep the ovary from releasing an egg, prevent egg and sperm from joining and/or change the lining of the uterus in such a way that if an egg is fertilized, the egg may not implant and develop into a pregnancy.


The “Morning After Pill” is not 100% effective. Some pregnancies do occur because a fertilized egg has already implanted, too much time has gone by in between unprotected intercourse and taking the pills, or due to a failure of the drug itself. You must return to the clinic in three weeks for a FREE pregnancy test.

Who can use it

Not all women should not be given the “Morning After Pill”. The decision to prescribe this drug must be based on complete and accurate information given by the patient about her past and present health, the time of unprotected intercourse, and a highly sensitive pregnancy test. A few conditions rule out the “Morning After Pill” entirely: having blood clots, inflammation of the veins, serious liver disease, unexplained bleeding from the vagina, any suspicion of abnormal growth or cancer of the breast or reproductive organs, or an already established pregnancy. In rare cases, there is a slightly greater chance of developing certain serious problems, such as blood clots, stroke and heart attack (women age 35 or older, who smoke heavily are at greatest risk).

Common Reactions

The most common noted reactions are: - nausea and/or vomiting - breast tenderness - irregular bleeding and headaches

Possible Problems

Some studies have shown that some offspring of women who take estrogen hormones during pregnancy have birth defects of their reproductive systems. Symptoms to report to a doctor are: chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, unusual pain or swelling in the legs, severe headaches, eye problems such as blurred or double vision, pain in the abdomen, yellowing of the skin or eyes or severe depression.

If you see a doctor for any reason before you have a menstrual period, be sure to tell him, or her that you are taking or have taken the “morning after pill”.

For a private information session, call the Clinic for details.