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08 Feb 2003

I took the morning after pill 3 days after my period was finished and this is the 3rd time this month I have got my period, is this normal, as I have only ever taken this pill once?
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01 Jan 0001

The morning after pill, now more commonly known as emergency contraception, is a set of birth control pills that are taken within 72 hours (the sooner, the better) after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are not to be confused with RU-486 (mifepristone), the early option pill that causes medical/chemical abortion in pregnant women within 49 days from the first day of their last menstrual period.

Two different types of ECPs are now available. While they have the same result, they contain different combinations of hormones and can have different side effects. The combined ECP uses two hormones — oestrogen and progestin — in the same dose that's found in certain regular birth control pills. ECP that's specifically sold for emergency use, though some birth control pill packs that are used on an ongoing basis can be taken as ECPs, too. Among combined ECP users, the most common side effect is nausea, and less commonly, vomiting. A dose may have to be repeated if vomiting occurs within 1 or 2 hours of taking it. The combined ECP is 75 percent effective in reducing the risk of pregnancy among users who would've become pregnant.

The progestin-only ECP is the other option, and, as the name implies, has only progestin as its hormonal ingredient. Available for emergency use, progestin-only ECPs are more effective (89 percent) than the combined pills (75 percent). Users are also less likely to have nausea and vomiting from popping the progestin-only ECPs than from taking the combined regimen.

The theoretical risks of combined ECPs are the same as those of oral contraceptives containing estrogen. For both types of ECPs, irregular periods may occur; if a woman doesn't get her period within three weeks, a follow-up visit is important. Temporary side effects may include:

breast tenderness
weight gain or loss
irregular bleeding

Knowing you have options if a condom breaks or other birth control method fails, if you are a survivor of rape, or if, for any other reason, you have unprotected intercourse, can provide a security that those in generations before us did not have. If you missed the 72-hour window, you can take a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, you can consider your options and/or talk about them with a health care provider to help you decide what to do.

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