The side effects of emergency contraception

Whilst watching another chick-flick to get through the Easter break loneliness, I came upon a scene whereby an 18-year-old had whimsically had unprotected sex at her prom, taken the ‘morning after pill’ and then carried on her merry way, only to find she still wound up pregnant. I thought it was great that the film noted that despite trying to take precautions, accidents still happen. Yet the one element of this scenario which was not played out was the effect of having taken the pill. Taking emergency contraception is scary, and it should be. Being in a situation where it is necessary can cause concern enough and the intense dose of hormones can cause absolute havoc and strain on the body. It is certainly not the ‘quick fix then forget’ solution that this medically frowned upon nickname would have you believe. Though when truly necessary, there is a much wider window than simply ‘the morning-after’!

Firstly, for those who end up needing emergency contraception, it is important to note that the traditional Levonelle pill can be used up to 72 hours after intercourse and EllaOne, a newer morning-after pill can be used within five days. Though these are effective drugs, they are not fool-proof. What is crucial to highlight is the effects these pills can have on your body for a prolonged period of time. The range of side-effects are vast and of course vary with each person.

One could expect to experience any of the following, (although these symptoms may not necessarily happen in everyone):

  • ‘Baby brain’ confusion and forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Bleeding
  • Appetite change
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Constant thirst

In my unpleasant experience, I suffered from all of the above, so severely in fact that I had to go to A&E, and pretty much had 111 on speed dial. It is nerve-racking watching and feeling your body go through so much stress all at once and despite my broodiness, if this is a taste of pregnancy, it has only made me more determined to ensure that the real thing is a long way off for me and only happens when planned. Many of which the symptoms sound similar to those experienced when pregnant, right? So I guess you can add anxiety to that list! Of course these symptoms will not happen to everyone and some will experience few, if any, of them. The ability to access emergency contraception is fantastic, but being aware of the stress and unpleasant week ahead it can lead to is just further motivation to be prepared and be protected in the first instance. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but best to be safe in the first place.


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January 2022
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