Learn about the morning after pill

How does the morning-after pill work, when to take it, and where to get it for free? Explanations, with the help of midwife Hélène Rialland.

what is the morning after pill? – definition

The morning after pill is a emergency contraceptive, its aim is therefore to prevent pregnancy.

The notion of urgency comes from the fact that this pill only works after a poorly protected or unprotected report (rupture of condom, forgetting of contraception, other…).

It differs from most prescribed contraceptives such as the pill, condom or IUD in that it is only a backup solution to take after taking a risk.

Note also that it only protects against pregnancy and not against STIs and STDs. For the latter, only the condom acts as protection.

how does the morning after pill work?

The morning-after pill is a tablet that should be swallowed as easily as other medicines.

It works by seeking to block the arrival of ovulation to come. The logic that follows is simple: if there is no ovulation, there is no risk of getting pregnant.

On the other hand, if you have already ovulated and fertilization has taken place, it will not help.

It is important to note in this regard that this is not an abortion pill: the morning after pill prevents pregnancy from happening, but will not prevent it from developing if it is there.

when to take the morning-after pill, how effective?

There are currently two types of morning-after pills: levonorgestrel, which can be taken up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected or poorly protected intercourse, and ulipristal acetate, which can be taken up to 120H (5 days) after. The latter is often referred to as the “two-day pill”.

For better effectiveness, it is recommended to take it as soon as possible after the risky intercourse, ideally within the first 12 hours.

If in the first 24 hours, that with levonorgestrel is only about 95% effective, this rate drops to 85% on the second day and 58% thereafter.

These chances of success (and failure) explain the fact that it is very strongly advised to take a pregnancy test about 2 or 3 weeks after the risky intercourse to make sure that the morning after pill has worked.

where to find the morning after pill?

The morning-after pill is simply found in pharmacies where it can be bought freely, without a prescription.

Many other institutions can provide it, often free of charge. For example :

  • If you are in college or high school, you can request it from your school nurse

  • If you are at university, you can ask for it in a preventive medicine department

  • Family planning or education centers (family planning) can provide

  • The same goes for CeDIDD (i.e. an STD and STI screening center)

how much does the morning after pill cost?

The morning-after pill costs between 5 and a little less than around € 20 in pharmacies, depending on the model and the place of sale.

If you are a minor, the morning-after pill is always distributed free of charge and anonymously, including in pharmacies.

Do not hesitate to specifically ask for this free if you are asked to pay when you are under 18 years old. It’s your right.

If you are of age, certain places such as the university or testing centers may give you a morning-after pill for free.

Another, intermediate solution is to have your doctor prescribe an overnight pill. This allows it to be reimbursed at 65% by health insurance.

It may seem loquacious to think of prescribing something that is only for emergency use, but it may allow you to have an overnight pill in your home “just in case” a risky relationship happens.

what are the side effects of the morning after pill?

By stopping ovulation, the morning after pill disrupts the cycle with many consequences. We find among others:

  • Bleeding

  • Nausea

  • Stomach aches

  • Headaches and dizziness

  • Breast tension

  • And finally, cycle disorders: since ovulation has been stopped, it is difficult to predict when the next ovulation will take place, and therefore when the next period will arrive.

Fortunately, these side effects remain mild, as midwife Hélène Rialland points out:

“The morning after pill has no serious side effects, and it can be given to anyone, even if they are sick, without any additional risk. “

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Learn about the morning after pill


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