Birth Control: Contraceptive Measures after Unprotected Sex

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the side effects of the morning after pill?

  • There are no serious side effects, but the pills may cause nausea and vomiting in some women.
  • These side effects may be controlled by taking an anti-nausea drug such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine).
  • Frequently a doctor will give a prescription nausea medication, such as prochlorperazine (Compazine), at the same time as the emergency contraceptive pill.
  • A woman may also experience breast tenderness and a temporary disruption of her menstrual cycle.

Who can purchase the morning after pill?

  • One type of emergency hormonal contraception is available without a prescription in the US for people aged 17 or older (proof of ID is required for purchase).
  • It is also available for younger teens with parental permission.

What tests or exams are necessary before you can use the morning after pill?

Neither a physical examination nor any laboratory tests are required prior to use of the emergency hormonal contraception. It can be taken at any time during the menstrual cycle, and the next menstrual period typically occurs within one week of the expected time. The timing of the subsequent menses is, to some extent, dependent upon the time in the cycle at which the emergency contraceptive was taken.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015
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