Emergency Contraception

Levonorgestrel, which is commonly called the “morning after pill” or Plan B is the most common form of emergency contraception. 1


Levonorgestrel, sold as either Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice One Dose® 2 is taken within 72 hours after a woman has had sex without using any type of birth control or if the birth control method failed. It is commonly called the “morning after pill.”[1. Office of Women’s Health. (2012, July 16). Emergency contraception (emergency birth control) fact sheet | womenshealth.gov. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/emergency-contraception.html#a]

This procedure takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes, with an in-clinic recovery period of up to 5 hours.

  • If a woman is already pregnant, emergency contraception will not work.
  • Plan B and Next Choice are not the abortion pill.

How Emergency Contraception Works

Levonorgestrel works in one of three ways:

  1. Prevents ovulation
  2. Prevents sperm from fertilizing egg
  3. Makes the uterine lining more hostile to implantation

Note: Levonorgestrel does not protect against sexually transmitted disease!

Different types of medication are often used with emergency contraception, including pain medication and/or a sedative prior to the process, as well as medicine after the process to lessen any bleeding that occurs. The procedure usually lasts about 30 minutes.

Side Effects of Emergency Contraception

The most common side effects after getting emergency contraception are:

  • A change in bleeding patterns, i.e. heavier or lighter periods, an early or late period
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Breast tenderness and/or pain

Less common, but more serious complications may include:  

  • Severe abdominal pain – seek emergency care
  • Nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea*3

*Note: If you vomit within two hours of taking the medication, call a healthcare provider to see if you should take another dose.


  1. Plan B One-Step. (2015). About Plan B One-Step®. Retrieved from http://planbonestep.com/about.aspx
  2. Next Choice. (2014). The Morning After Pill – Emergency Contraception – Next Choice®. Retrieved from http://www.mynextchoiceonedose.com/
  3. Medline Plus. (2015, March 31). Levonorgestrel: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a610021.html