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Side Effects of Emergency Contraceptive Pills on Periods

December 3, 2020

Emergency contraception or “the morning-after pills” is a type of birth control pill taken by women the following morning after unprotected sex when she suspects a ruptured condom or when she missed out on regular contraceptive pills. Emergency contraception is the SOS solution if any other birth control methods fail. It works by either blocking the hormones that promote conception or by delaying the ovulation cycle.

What are the types of Emergency Contraceptive pills?

The time duration between the pill consumption and intercourse determines the effectiveness of the emergency contraceptives. Depending on this time duration there are different types of Emergency Contraceptive.

  • Levonorgestrel or the Plan-B one-step emergency contraception pills, these pills contain the hormone levonorgestrel that can prevent pregnancy by either delaying the eggs maturation or by interfering in the fertilization of the eggs. Levonorgestrel is most effective when taken immediately, that is within 72 hours of having unprotected intercourse.
  • There is a non-hormonal drug like the ulipristal which works by blocking the hormones responsible for the conception. It can be consumed within 120 hours of unprotected sex.

What are the side-effects of Emergency Contraceptives?

Even though emergency contraceptive is safe, it should not be consumed regularly or replace the contractive pills or birth control pills. The emergency contraceptive pills are very strong and can meddle with the normal hormonal cycle of the body.  

Therefore, regular use can result in various side effects like: Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Bleeding for 2-3 days is normal after the pills but more than three days can be a sign of a severe health issue and requires immediate medical attention. This is one of the common side effects of consuming an emergency contraceptive pill.

  • Nausea and headache: A few women experience nausea, headache, vomiting, causing dehydration. If these symptoms last for a long time (over two days), then it is best to ask your gynaecologist for more information.
  • Severe abdominal pain: This is the most common side effect of popping an emergency contraceptive pill. The stomach can feel tender and painful to touch, and this can lead to constipation and fatigue.
  • Interference with other medication: It is best to ask gynaecologist before opting for these pills if you are taking medicines for epilepsy, tuberculosis, fungal infections, or HIV since these medications affect the functioning of these pills and vice versa.
  • Interference with the menstruation cycle: Changes in the menstruation cycle has been observed in women who consume emergency pills. Therefore, search for “gynaecologist near me” on the web and go for a quick visit to know better.

Does the Emergency Contraceptive pill affect the menstruation cycle?

Well, yes! Careful studies have shown that women who use emergency contraceptive pill either get their periods 3–4 days early or later than the actual date. Not just this, about 13–14% of women experience excruciating painful menstruation cramps. The World Health Organization has announced levonorgestrel as the gold standard in hormonal emergency contraception (EC). It is a safe method of emergency contraception, but changes in the menstruation pattern have been observed in women who consume the pill.  

The menstrual cycle of women is generally by a mean interval of 28 days between the two menses. A careful study based on the menstrual cycle regularity showed that there is a change in the cycle length (+/− 2 days) and menstrual period duration (+/− 1 day) in women who have taken the EC pills. This change in the cycle is due to the hormonal change that is brought about by the pill. When or at what stage of ovulation the pill is taken determines the changes in the women’s monthly cycle.

Few of the changes that studies concluded are:

  • If the emergency contraceptive pill is consumed at one time in the first three weeks of the monthly menstrual cycles, it was observed that the periods came much sooner than expected.
  • If the EC pill is consumed in the fourth week of the cycle, it was observed that the periods came in the usual time, but lasted for longer than average.
  • If the emergency contraceptive pill is consumed (at one time) within two days before or after ovulation, then no significant changes were observed.
  • If the periods are delayed for more than a week or more, then please take a pregnancy test to confirm if the EC pills were effective or not.

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What is the alternative?

Apart from the pills, there is an Intrauterine Device (IUD).  Insertion of the IUD also prevents pregnancy by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg for 5 to 7 days after unprotected sex. You can learn more about it by consulting it with your healthcare specialist. Therefore, if you are experiencing any such changes, kindly visit the nearest doctor!

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