When to Take Plan B

When to Take Plan B

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Information and Advice on the Morning-After Pill

Are you thinking about taking the morning-after pill? Or are you fearing you could be pregnant despite morning-after pill? This article aims to provide you with relevant information regarding efficacy, timing, side-effects, and experiences.

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How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

The emergency contraceptive pill postpones ovulation. You can only get pregnant if sperm is present in your body during your fertile window. This is around your time of ovulation. However, sperm survives in the female body for up to five days. By inhibiting or delaying ovulation, the morning-after pill aims to prevent sperm cells from being  capable of fertilization at the time of ovulation.

ℹ️ Should ovulation have occurred before taking the morning-after pill, the active ingredient in the pill may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.

The following hormones compose the active ingredients:

  • Levonorgestrel (e.g.: PiDaNa® — as well as its generic counterparts, including: Aftera®, Postrelle®, Levonelle®, NorLevo® and EContra®)
  • Ulipristal acetate (e.g.: ellaOne®)

One dose suffices for each particular cycle. However, other medications may counteract its effect.


When Do I Take the Morning-After Pill?

Both levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate should be taken before ovulation within the following time-span:

  • Levonorgestrel: Within 72 hours, i.e. 3 days, of sexual intercourse
  • Ulipristal acetate: Within 120 hours, i.e. 5 days, of sexual intercourse

Both active ingredients show best results if taken within 12 hours of sexual intercourse.


How Does Ella Compare to Other Morning-After Pills?




Active Ingredient

Ulipristal acetate


Time Frame

Within 120 hours (5 days) of sexual intercourse

Up to 72 hours, preferably within 12 hours of sexual intercourse

Stats: Number of pregnancies
(per 100 users)
  • If taken within 24 hours: 0.9%
  • If taken within 120 hours: 2.1%
  • If taken within 24 hours: 1-2%
  • If taken within 72 hours: <12%


  • The use of ellaOne® is widespread in Europe and is now becoming increasingly popular in other countries.
  • EllaOne®’s active ingredient, ulipristal acetate, works within 120 hours, i.e. 5 days, of sexual intercourse. It is more likely than others to be effective, even when ovulation is immanent.
  • All other morning-after pills contain levonorgestrel, a concentrated synthetic version of the hormone progestin (the pregnancy hormone).


How Much Does the Morning-After Pill Cost and Where Can I Get It?

  • The morning-after pill can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. Internationally, prices are very similar: Brand names cost about $40-$50. Generics can be obtained for as low as $11.
  • You can also order a generic brand called AfterPill online for $20 + $5 shipping.
  • Levonelle® is only available if you are 16 or older, but there is no age restriction for ellaOne.
  • In the UK, you can get both Levonelle® and ellaOne® free of charge from some pharmacies.
  • In some countries, including the UK, men cannot buy the morning after pill.


Side Effects

The morning-after pill purposefully alters your hormone levels. This can be accompanied by side effects, including nausea, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting and delayed menstruation. Some women experience spotting or inter-menstrual bleeding and other deviations from their regular cycle.


Experiences With the Morning-After Pill

"On 07/20 I had sex with my boyfriend. Right at the end, the condom burst... we drove to the pharmacy to get the morning-after pill. (...) Six days later, on 07/26 I had some spotting for three days (...) My period was supposed to start on Aug. 8, but it still has not come... Do I wait some more? Or do I need to do something? Where do I go from here?"

     – This experience was shared (in German) on profemina's open forum.

If this is your situation, and you are concerned, whether you could be pregnant in spite of the morning-after pill, check out our article: Pregnant Despite Morning-After Pill for advice and information.


Where Do I Go From Here?

You probably feel the time crunch and sense the need to act quickly. At the same time, you might be wondering whether the morning-after pill would even work for you — and what you would do if you ended up pregnant...

Try these tips:

  • Take a deep breath and choose not to rush. You have at least a few hours if not a few days to decide what to do.
  • You are doing what is most profitable to you right now: researching the facts. You may discern that your fertile window is still a long way off, making the morning-after pill unnecessary — or your ovulation has already taken place, making the morning-after pill ineffectual.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you desire more information about side effects and applicability of the emergency contraceptive pill.


You may also like:


Everything you need to know before taking Plan B: The Cut (As of September 2021)

Emergency Contraception: UpToDate (As of October 2021)


The morning-after pill works by delaying an imminent ovulation. Depending on the active ingredient, it is effective if taken within 3 or 5 days of sexual intercourse. Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you are unsure whether this is the right timing for the morning-after pill. 

A single dose, taken after intercourse, suffices. If the situation arises again within the same menstrual cycle, consult your doctor or pharmacist before repeating a dose. The morning-after pill alters your hormone levels. Therefore, it is not advisable to use it regularly in place of contraception.  Carefully weigh whether using the morning-after pill as an emergency contraceptive is what you really want. 

Every woman gets to decide, whether it makes sense for her to take the morning-after pill. The effectiveness of the morning-after pill hinges on multiple factors, such as your current phase in your menstrual cycle, or whether ovulation has yet to occur. Side effects should also be taken into account. Consult your doctor or pharmacist, if you are wondering whether the morning-after pill is right for you.

Did you find the information in this article helpful?