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What are the morning-after pill side effects?

by Dr. Margo Harrison
Julie Medical Advisor
Morning After Pill

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.

Late Period

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.

Abdominal pain

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

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.

Why Julie?

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.