What to Do Afterward

Following both combined and progestin-only emergency contraception, you may experience some nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloating. Some women may also experience breast tenderness, headaches, and dizziness. These side effects can last for a few days. Side effects of ulipristal (ella) can include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. You may have some spotting a few days after you take the pills. Your period may come earlier or later than expected with any of these methods of emergency contraception. (1)

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. You may want to consider getting tested if there is a possibility that unprotected sex put you at risk.

The most important thing to do after unprotected sex, says Dr. James Trussell, Princeton University researcher in the area of reproductive health, is to use a contraceptive the next time you have sex. Start using a regular birth control method you think you’ll be able to use every time you have sex, because that will be more effective than relying only on emergency contraception.

Common Questions

  • Are you supposed to bleed after taking the morning-after pill? Does that mean it worked? “This is the most common question we get on our website,” says Dr. Trussell. Actually bleeding (or not) doesn’t signify whether or not the pill has worked. The morning-after pill method isn’t 100% effective. Only a pregnancy test in a couple of weeks can determine whether or not it has worked.
  • Can I take extra pills if I’m not sure it worked?  They probably won’t reduce your risk of pregnancy more than the recommended dose for emergency contraception. But they will make it more likely you’ll feel sick to your stomach (one of the more common side effects).
  • What if I throw up? Will the pills still work?  If you throw up within an hour after taking the pills, call your health care provider. You may need to repeat a dose, and it might make sense to take some anti-nausea medication.
  • What symptoms should I worry about?  If you have any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider. Ask for an appointment right away if you have:
    • severe pain in your leg (calf or thigh)
    • severe abdominal pain
    • chest pain, cough, or shortness of breath
    • severe headaches, dizziness, weakness, or numbness
    • blurred vision, loss of vision, or trouble speaking
    • jaundice (if you see a yellowish tint in the whites of your eyes, your skin, or your mucus membranes) (3)
  • When will I get my next period?  Your next period should start within the next month, although it might come a few days early or late. If you don’t get your period by the time you expect it, you might consider taking a pregnancy test. (3)

What to expect after getting an IUD (2)

It is common for women to feel some cramping when the IUD is inserted. Many women only feel mild discomfort. The cramps go away after you rest, or if you take pain medication. Some health care providers suggest that women take pain medication before the IUD is inserted to lessen the cramps, and some providers inject a local anesthetic around the cervix to reduce discomfort.

You may also have spotting between periods in the first three to six months as well as irregular periods in the first three to six months with Mirena, and heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps with ParaGard.

When the IUD is inserted, some women may feel dizzy. Rarely, a woman might faint. You can ask someone to come with you when you get the IUD inserted so you don’t have to drive or go home alone. You should plan to rest at home until any discomfort subsides.   

The IUD can sometimes slip out of the uterus. It may come all the way out or only a little. This is more likely to happen to women who are younger and who have never had a baby. If the IUD slips out of place, pregnancy can occur. If it comes out only part of the way, it has to be removed. 

When the IUD is in place, a string will hang down into the vagina. It will be about 1 to 2 inches long.  Between your periods, check for the string ends. It is important to check every few days for the first few months.