Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, is an emergency contraceptive that if taken within 72 hours of an unprotected sexual act can help dramatically reduce the chance of pregnancy. However, chances are if you’re looking to learn about bleeding after taking Plan B you already know what it is because you’ve taken it.
Is bleeding after taking Plan B or emergency contraceptives normal?
Yes, a little over 26 percent of all women that use a form of emergency contraception experience irregular periods afterward being early, late, lighter, or heavier than their normal cycle. You may also experience spotting and menstrual-cycle-like symptoms such as abdominal cramping, nausea, fatigue, and headache.
Nausea is the most common side effect of plan B after irregular bleeding occurring in approximately 25 to 50 percent of all women depending on the particular pill taken. If any of your side effects are ongoing (beyond your next period) or become severe such as bleeding that requires sanitary changes every hour, consult a health care professional.
What causes bleeding after taking Plan B?
Emergency contraceptives work similarly to regular birth control pills except that they contain significantly higher doses of hormones. It’s because the majority of morning-after pills, and the most commonly used pill, Plan B, contain progesterone or are only progesterone that bleeding after taking emergency contraception is so common.
Progesterone is a hormone the body produces naturally to maintain the uterine lining and prevent ovulation. Normally, after ovulation, the rise of progesterone is signaled. If you become pregnant, progesterone levels continue to rise. If you don’t become pregnant, they drop, and this causes your period to begin. In essence, birth control uses progesterone to fake the body into believing it’s already pregnant to prevent ovulation (you don’t ovulate during pregnancy). High levels like those in Plan B will also thicken the uterine lining significantly, which would make implantation difficult.
As it’s a sudden drop in progesterone that usually causes your period, the sudden drop when the dose from an emergency pill dissipates can cause bleeding. The introduction of progesterone outside of the body’s natural cycle also often causes a bit of hormonal imbalance which may lead to irregular spotting. Progesterone, being responsible for many common pregnancy symptoms, can likewise cause pregnancy-like symptoms outside of pregnancy along with bleeding.
Long story short: Hormonal imbalance.
When will my menstrual cycle return to normal after irregular bleeding caused by the morning-after pill?
In most cases, menstruation returns to normal the following month. In fact, you may even still have your regularly scheduled period even if you already had bleeding shortly after taking the morning-after pill. If menstruation continues to be irregular, consult a health care professional.
Can I get pregnant after taking Plan B?
Yes. Not only are Plan B and other emergency contraceptive pills not 100-percent effective, but when ovulation will continue after taking the pill is uncertain. The effectiveness of Plan B may also hinge on when in your cycle it was taken. If you don’t wish to become pregnant, you should continue a regular birth control method immediately. Do not use the morning-after pill as a regular form of birth control. They aren’t designed for frequent use. If you do wish to become pregnant, the use of Plan B will not prevent or affect future pregnancies.