Julie Medical Advisor
What are the morning-after pill side effects?
10 Morning-After Pill Side Effects & How Long They Last
The morning-after pill, like Julie, is a type of emergency contraceptive that’s available as an over-the-counter (OTC) one-step pill. It contains a medication called levonorgestrel (the same medication used in some birth control pills). When taken correctly, it can greatly reduce your chance of getting pregnant by pausing or delaying ovulation.
Anytime you take medication, there’s a potential for side effects. The morning-after pill is no different. When used as directed, Julie is safe and effective but it is helpful to know about side effects so you can be prepared.
First, why are there side effects?
Julie and other morning-after pills contain a larger amount of levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that’s also in some birth control pills. The extra amount of hormones can affect your menstrual cycle and cause some side effects. Most side effects come and go within hours of taking the pill, but some can last up to a couple of days.
Common Side Effects
Remember, everyone’s body is different, so you might experience some, all, or none of these symptoms.
Bleeding between periods
Because morning-after pills like Julie temporarily impact your hormone levels, they can affect your menstrual cycle. Usually, that results in some bleeding, aka spotting, between periods. Even though it can seem odd, it can be perfectly normal. If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing a lighter period or spotting as a side effect, take a pregnancy test. It’s also a good idea to take a pregnancy test if your period is more than one week late or three weeks after taking Julie.
Irregular Period (earlier or later)
Just as you might see some bleeding between cycles, your period might also arrive earlier or later than expected. 1 in 3 women experiences a change in their cycle after taking Julie. If you’ve taken a pregnancy test and you’re not pregnant, that just means your cycle might be a little out of sync. This is common and it should return to normal the following month.
One of the most common side effects of levonorgestrel is that it can cause your period to come late, which can make things confusing.
Here’s what happens: There’s a 14-day time frame between ovulation and your period. The morning-after pill hits the pause button on your ovulation, which usually lasts a few days. That means the 14-day countdown begins later as well, making it likely that your period will come later than it usually does.
If it’s been three weeks since taking the pill and you haven’t gotten your period, take a pregnancy test. If it comes back negative, that just means that your cycle is a little disrupted and should return to normal the following month.
Nausea is pretty common with Julie and all other levonorgestrel pills. Feeling nauseous is never fun, so avoid taking the morning-after pill on an empty stomach. Take it with food or after a meal, or consider making yourself a cup of ginger tea. If nausea leads to vomiting within two hours of taking the pill, you should call your healthcare professional to see if you should take another dose to make sure it’s effective.
Lower stomach pain is also very common, but the pain is usually light or mild. Some people experience abdominal pain and nausea together. Like nausea, the feeling shouldn’t last long. A hot water bottle or heating pad on your stomach can often help. If you have severe abdominal pain, you may have an ectopic pregnancy, and should get immediate medical attention.
You might feel more tired or have lower energy after taking Julie. If you’re able, carve out some time to rest. Like other side effects, fatigue and exhaustion won’t last long. If you’re able to, try focusing on some self-care practices.
Getting a headache is another side effect you might experience. It happens to about 10% of morning-after pill users. It’s totally fine to take an OTC painkiller to help your headache go away quicker.
If you’re feeling dizzy, take it easy, drink a glass of water, and lie down. It should pass soon. Sometimes dizziness can also happen with nausea or a headache.
Breast tenderness and discomfort is a side effect associated with birth control pills, which means it can also occur with emergency contraceptive pills containing levonorgestrel, like Julie. Women that are more sensitive to hormones are more likely to experience this symptom. Breast tenderness should last for no more than 1-2 days.
Managing side effects
Most side effects are easily manageable, but sometimes they can be annoying. If that headache just won’t go away or your breasts are super tender, and it persists, it’s safe and okay to take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or any over-the-counter pain reliever. They won’t interact or interfere with levonorgestrel.
Listen to your body. After all, you’ve just taken a pill that affects your hormones. Feeling a little weird is normal. Rest, keep yourself hydrated, and give yourself some extra compassion.
If the same side effects last beyond a few days or if you’re experiencing intense abdominal pain or excessive vomiting, it’s time to see a healthcare professional.
Likewise, if you’re experiencing an allergic reaction like hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or you have trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Allergic reactions are rare, but they can happen. Address it as soon as possible.
OTC morning-after pills are super accessible, legal in all 50 states, and incredibly common. According to a study done by the CDC, 24.3% of women age 22-49 who have been sexually active have taken the morning-after pill. And yet so many women still feel uncomfortable buying it, are worried about others seeing them with it, or feel unsure of how it works and what it does to their body. But it’s time for that to change. Because we all deserve access to healthcare options without any awkwardness or confusion attached.
We also all deserve access to emergency contraception whether we can afford it or not. That’s why for every box of Julie sold, we’ll donate one free box to someone who needs it. Learn more about our donation program and where you can get EC for free.
Our #1 goal is to give you the facts. Because when you have all the info, options, and details in front of you, you can make more informed decisions for yourself. And honestly, that’s just the way it should be.
- When do morning-after pill side effects start?
Side effects like nausea, abdominal pain, and fatigue can start within a few hours of being taken. If you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you should take another dose.
- Does the morning-after pill impact future fertility?
Levonorgestrel only pauses ovulation for a very short period of time. OTC morning-after pills like Julie won’t impact your ability to get pregnant later.
- How will this affect my cycle?
Your cycle might be affected after taking the morning-after pill. That’s because there’s a higher dose of levonorgestrel compared to what’s found in daily birth control pills. It’s likely to impact your body’s natural hormone levels for a short period of time.
This might result in an earlier or later period. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional. Your period might also be lighter or heavier than usual, or you might experience spotting in between cycles.
- Which side effects are long-term?
There are a few different side effects that are common, like changes in your period, nausea, lower stomach pain, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and breast tenderness. These symptoms typically go away within a few hours and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. If you have any side effects that bother you, call your healthcare professional.
When used as directed, Julie is safe and effective. Common side effects may include changes in your period, nausea, lower stomach pain, tiredness, headache, dizziness and breast tenderness. Julie will not protect you from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any medication.
Emergency contraceptives like Julie work when you take them after sex. That’s because emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by delaying when you ovulate. By taking emergency contraception before sex, you may not be delaying ovulation long enough.
No. Julie is not what is commonly called “the abortion pill” or “medication abortion”. The active ingredient in the abortion pill is mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing. Julie does not and will not impact an existing pregnancy, and works by delaying ovulation before there is a pregnancy.
The FDA recently made an update in December 2022 to remove any language suggesting that Julie may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. We are currently working on removing this outdated disclaimer but you may still see it present on some of our packaging in the meantime. Please disregard these statements because they are out of date. Julie will not impact an existing pregnancy.
Julie is an emergency contraception you can take after:
- You didn’t use any form of birth control or had unprotected sex
- There was an issue with your regular birth control method (eg, the condom broke or slipped)
- You missed a dose (or more) of your regular birth control pill
Taking Julie will not impact your ability to get pregnant.
After taking Julie you can continue on with your regular birth control method if you have one (for example, continue taking birth control pills).
You will know Julie has been effective when you get your next period, which should come at the expected time, or within a week of the expected time. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional.
Julie is a backup or emergency method and should not be used as a regular birth control method. Consult with your doctor about a birth control method that makes sense for you.
Please know that taking a dose of Julie will only protect you from one instance of unprotected sex, it will not prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex over the coming days or weeks. If you have unprotected sex in the future and want to prevent pregnancy, be sure to take a new dose of Julie and talk to your doctor about the best birth control options for you.
Your menstrual bleeding patterns may change temporarily after using levonorgestrel. If you find that your period is more than a week late, take a pregnancy test to confirm whether the contraceptive has worked.
Julie can be used by all women, regardless of weight but women with BMIs above 29.9 have a pregnancy risk of 5.8% - meaning that out of every 100 women who take Julie, 6 may become pregnant. We advise that you speak with your doctor for further information on how this may affect you personally.
Take Julie tablets orally (swallow it). It is preferable to take it with water, and you can take it with or without food. Do not insert Julie vaginally.
Julie is not an abortion pill and will not harm an existing pregnancy nor will it be effective if a woman is already pregnant.
Julie is a progestin‑only emergency contraception product that helps prevent pregnancy before it starts when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
Julie is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control. Use as directed.
Julie is effective up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. The sooner it’s taken after unprotected sex, the better it works.
Julie can significantly decrease your chances of getting pregnant. When used as directed, about 7 out of every 8 women who could have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking Julie. The most important factor affecting how well Julie works is how quickly it is taken. When taken as directed within 72 hours after unprotected sex or birth control failure, Julie can significantly decrease the chance that a woman will get pregnant. In fact, the earlier Julie is taken after unprotected intercourse, the better it works.
Emergency contraception is not 100% effective, which is why it is critical that women have a regular birth control method. If you have any further questions, we encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider.
Since emergency contraception can affect the length of your menstrual cycle, your period might come about a week later or earlier than usual after taking Julie. If your period is more than one week late, consider the possibility of pregnancy.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or EC. However, some insurances require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and places where EC is sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
You do not need to see a doctor before or after taking Julie. You do not need a prescription from a doctor. We do encourage you to speak to a doctor you feel comfortable with about sex, reproductive health, and contraception.
No. We know this is a common misconception so let’s break it down. Using Julie (no matter how many times you take it) does not affect your fertility — and it will not prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future. You should feel free to use Julie whenever you think it’s necessary. Julie (and all EC) is not recommended as an ongoing form of birth control because it’s not as effective at preventing pregnancy as birth control methods like the IUD, patch, pill, ring, or shot. Also, frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable. That’s it!
Yes. You are not alone. Often times, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy.