Julie Medical Advisor
Morning-after pill myths debunked
What’s true & what’s not: morning-after pill myths
There’s a lot of information, and misinformation, out there about emergency contraception (EC) and the morning-after pill, which can make it very difficult to find answers. With the help of Dr. Tessa Commers, we’re breaking down some of the most common myths about the morning-after pill so you can be armed with the information needed to make the best decision for you.
The morning-after pill is not the abortion pill: TRUE
Some people confuse the morning-after pill, like Julie (levonorgestrel) tablet 1.5 mg, and the abortion pill, but they’re actually very different medications. Julie is taken after unprotected sex to stop a pregnancy from starting, while the abortion pill is taken after a pregnancy has already begun. Julie, aka the morning-after pill, is made up of levonorgestrel, a hormone that can stop ovulation from occurring and interfere with fertilization (joining of the sperm and egg). The abortion pill, on the other hand, is actually two pills: mifepristone and misoprostol, which stops an already established pregnancy.
The morning-after pill can harm a fetus: FALSE
The morning-after pill works by stopping ovulation and may inhibit sperm function. Both of these processes happen before a pregnancy is conceived, which is why Julie is able to prevent a pregnancy before it starts. Julie cannot end a pregnancy that has already started and cannot harm a fetus. In a PubMed study that followed children whose mothers had taken levonorgestrel, there were “no effects on the physical growth, mental development, or birth defects in children born from pregnancies in which EC failed.”
Taking multiple birth control pills equals the morning-after pill: FALSE
Heard of the Yuzpe method? It involves taking multiple birth control pills as a form of emergency contraception after unprotected sex. A study showed that this method was able to reduce pregnancies by 70% and 77% (using two different methodologies) when taken as directed. The Yuzpe method is less preferred than the morning-after pill, like Julie, because it has more side effects and is less effective (the morning-after pill is 89% effective). This method is the least effective with the most side effects so it makes more sense to buy the morning-after pill or ask your provider about other methods of emergency contraception.
The morning-after pill doesn’t work if your BMI is over 25: FALSE
Some studies have shown decreased effectiveness of the morning-after pill in people who weigh over 165 pounds or have a BMI over 25, but the science is limited and more research needs to be done. One study showed that the risk of pregnancy for women with a BMI over 30 who took levonorgestrel was 2%, compared to 1.2% for the entire group, which included people with lower and higher BMIs. So while effectiveness decreases as BMI increases, the morning-after pill can still be safe and effective regardless of your BMI.
Alcohol makes the morning-after pill less effective: FALSE
There are no known interactions between the morning-after pill and alcohol. So if you want a drink before or after taking Julie, feel free.
The morning-after pill is legal in all 50 states: TRUE
Julie is FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states. You can buy it online or at a Walmart near you.
You can take the morning-after pill up to 3 days after unprotected sex: TRUE
The sooner you take it, the better it works. Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient in Julie and other morning-after pills, is 89% effective when taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, but it can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
The morning-after pill affects your fertility: FALSE
The morning-after pill can temporarily prevent a pregnancy from occurring but has no effect on your ability to get pregnant in the future, no matter how many times you take it.
The morning-after pill protects you from pregnancy for a few days: FALSE
Morning-after pills like Julie temporarily stop ovulation and may prevent sperm from functioning properly. But it only protects you from the sexual encounter you just had, not future ones. If you have unprotected sex again, there’s a new chance for sperm to fertilize an egg, which is a new opportunity for a pregnancy to develop. In that case, you’d need to take another dose of Julie.
You need to be 18 years old to buy the morning-after pill: FALSE
Anyone can buy the morning-after pill, like Julie, online or at Walmart near you without an ID, credit card, or parent.
The morning-after pill has side effects: TRUE
Like any medication, the morning-after pill comes with some side effects, but most are fairly mild and will pass after a day or two. The most common ones are delayed period, spotting, nausea, lower stomach (abdominal) pain, tiredness, headache, dizziness, breast pain, vomiting, and cramping. Read more about Julie side effects and why they occur here.
The morning-after pill works during ovulation: FALSE
Julie, aka the morning-after pill, works by pausing ovulation, so if you’ve already ovulated and an egg has been released, then it likely will not work. But that doesn’t automatically mean that you’re pregnant. In fact, one-third to one-half of all fertilized eggs never implant on the uterine lining anyway, meaning they never turn into a pregnancy. Not sure if you’ve ovulated? Here’s how to tell.
The morning-after pill is safe for people at any weight: TRUE
While there is evidence that the morning-after pill, like Julie, can be less effective for people with a BMI over 25, it is still safe to take and FDA-approved for all weights. Read more about the effectiveness of Julie and different BMIs here.
It’s safe to take the morning-after pill multiple times: TRUE
While it’s always best to use a consistent form of birth control like the pill, IUD, patch, ring, or a condom to protect against pregnancy, it’s totally safe to take the morning-after pill multiple times. Beyond the side effects and temporary changes to your cycle, there are no long-term effects of taking Julie and it does not affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.
Men can’t buy the morning-after pill: FALSE
There are no gender restrictions for buying the morning-after pill. Anyone can pick up a box of Julie online or at your local Walmart.
The morning-after pill can protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs): FALSE
Morning-after pills like Julie do not protect against STIs. For STI concerns, please see a healthcare provider who can talk to you about effective methods of STI protection, routine birth control, and answer any questions you may have.
Although the information above may be useful, it shouldn’t replace the advice of your healthcare professional. For questions about birth control and other women’s health issues, please talk to your healthcare professional.
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.