Plan B Side Effects: Headaches, Bleeding, Breast Tenderness

These symptoms are not common and don’t last long. One in five women who take emergency pills experience these side effects, which stop within a day or two.

The emergency pill may also disrupt a woman’s periods for a short time, causing the next period to come early or late. On average, women taking ulipristal acetate had their next period 2.1 days later than expected, while women taking levonorgestrel began their next period 1.2 days earlier than expected. The duration of periods was not affected.

For some women, the pills may cause unexpected bleeding. But this should clear up by the time they have their next period. [Plan B Side Effects: Bleeding]

Women taking progestin-only pills and those using ulipristal acetate pills experience the same side effects.

Who can get emergency pills?
In the U.S. morning after pills are available for sale without prescription to women and men 17 and older. These are also sold with prescription to women aged 16 and younger. ella (ulipristal acetate) is sold by prescription only.

Day after pills are not available in places that do not have a licensed prescriber or pharmacist on site—such as convenience stores and gas stations.

On Dec. 8, U.S. President Barack Obama endorsed the decision of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to overrule the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that Plan B One-Step, be sold without a prescription to people under 17.

Emergency pills are legal in over 140 countries, and available over the counter in more than 60 countries.

Since the World Health Organization deemed these ECPs as safe and effective in the mid-1990s, the pill has been gaining popularity in the countries of North America and Europe, as well as Thailand, Finland, Kenya, Ghana and Mexico.

Half of all pregnancies in the US are unintended: 3.2 million occurred in 2006 alone, the last year for which data is available.

“Emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse, has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and the consequent need for abortion,” economist James Trussell, PhD and Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond, MD, MPH say in a meta study published in December 2011 and available on the ARHP and Princeton’s OPR website .

“ECPs may also offer reassurance to the 8.6 million women who rely on condoms for protection against pregnancy in case of condom slippage or breakage,” they also note in their interdisciplary study, “Emergency Contraception: A Last Chance to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy”.

Plan B Side Effects was originally published on 12 December 2011. Updated 3 October 2016.