The Morning After Pill: Side Effects

Read on to find out the answers to some commonly asked questions such as:

Are there different types of morning after pills?

What can I expect after taking the pill?

What are the side effects of the morning after pill?


Are There Different Types of Morning After Pill?

According to a survey, in the UK, 1 in 9 women under the age of 30 have taken the morning after pill, so it’s relatively common. It’s important if you’re considering taking the morning after pill, or have just taken it, to be aware of potential side effects; those that are normal and those that perhaps may require further medical attention.

In the UK, you will most commonly be prescribed either EllaOne or Levonelle.

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How Does The Morning After Pill Work?

Before reading the side effects, it’s important to understand how the morning after pill works in order to understand why the symptoms, some of which may seem alarming at first, happen. The morning after pill is essentially a high dose, a concentrated version of your regular contraceptive pill and contains similar hormones. It is 95% effective if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex but it’s best to take it as soon as possible as the hormones work mainly to delay the release of an egg or ovulation. They may also thicken the mucus at the entrance of the womb to make fertilisation more difficult. It’s important to note that these pills will not ‘abort’ a pregnancy if it has already occurred, it will only help to prevent one.

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As you can see, it works similarly to a contraceptive in preventing pregnancy, however, due to the higher dose, you are more likely to experience side effects which you may not have with your regular contraceptive.

Visit our online Morning After Pill clinic for treatment options


What are Common Side Effects of the Morning After Pill?

Depending on which pill you’ve bought or been prescribed, the side effects may vary slightly. However, common side effects include spotting, abdominal pain and irregular bleeding or periods once they resume.

Detailed information on the pills and further side effects can be found at

EllaOne (Patient Information Leaflet)

Levonelle(Patient Information Leaflet)


Below are listed the common side effects from the two most widely used pills:


Common side effects (may affect up to 1 in 10 people)

  • nausea, abdominal (stomach) pain or discomfort, vomiting
  • painful periods, pelvic pain, breast tenderness
  • headache, dizziness, mood swings


Uncommon side effects (may affect up to 1 in 100 people)

  • diarrhoea, heartburn, wind, dry mouth
  • unusual or irregular vaginal bleeding, heavy/prolonged periods
  • irritation or discharge, lesser or greater sex drive
  • hot flushes
  • appetite changes, anxiety
  • influenza
  • acne, skin lesions, itching
  • fever, chills, malaise


Some of the listed side effects are also common pregnancy symptoms, so if they continue or become more severe, always contact your GP or pharmacist to ask for a pregnancy test as some of the side effects such as nausea, severe abdominal pain and bleeding may also indicate an ectopic pregnancy, which can be dangerous if not treated in time.


How Do I Report Side Effects?

If you get any side effects, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. This includes any possible side effects not listed in this article. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme HERE or search for MHRA Yellow Card in the Google Play or Apple App Store. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of medications.

If you have taken a morning-after pill and then get pregnant in that cycle, it’s especially important to see your GP so that they can ensure your pregnancy is monitored if needed.