Women, the morning after pill doesn't work when ovulating – how to check when you're most fertile

Women, the morning after pill doesn't work when ovulating – how to check when you're most fertile

THE MORNING after pill doesn't work when you're ovulating as the drug works by delaying ovulation, doctors have explained.

Many women have to use the morning after pill if they have had unprotected sex or if the condom has broken.

Your regular contraception might also become ineffective if you have had a sickness bug.

You can access the morning after pill from your local pharmacy but some women have been left in shock after discovering that the pill won't work if you have already ovulated that month.

Taking to Mumsnet, one woman told of her struggle of getting hold of the morning after pill due to coronavirus restrictions and living in a rural area.

She wrote: "I had sex where the condom split on Monday last week, but due to covid restrictions and living rurally I was not able to get the morning after pill until Friday (4 days after sex).

"I have taken Ellaone before, the brand that you can take up to 5 days after, so assumed that all would be okay.

"I am also tracking my cycles on the instruction of my gynaecologist because I suffer with ovarian cysts."

She added that her ovulation had occurred before she took the pill on the Friday evening, making the emergency contraception "pointless".

This information is stated in the leaflets of the morning after pill and the doctor or pharmacist giving you the pill should explain this.

But many women have claimed they were not informed of this before taking the morning after pill.

Where can you get the morning after pill for free?

The NHS provide free morning after pills. You can pick them up in the following places:

  • Contraception clinics
  • Most sexual health/GUM clinics
  • Most GP surgeries
  • Most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
  • Some hospital A&Es
  • Brook centres
  • Some pharmacies – search for your closest one here

You will still need to see a doctor or nurse to get the pill, so you may have a fairly long wait in walk-in centres and clinics.

Why doesn't it work if you have ovulated?

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patientaccess.com explained how emergency contraception works.

Speaking to The Sun she said: "The emergency contraceptive pill is largely ineffective if you’ve already ovulated.

"It works mainly by delaying or preventing release of an egg. There are two tablet types of emergency contraception – Levonelle (which needs to be take within 3 days of unprotected sex) and EllaOne (which must be taken within 5 days).

"Both types are more effective the sooner after unprotected sex they are taken.

"You can also have a copper coil fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex – this is the most effective form of emergency contraception."

Speaking to BBC Women's HourDr Paula Briggs, a sexual health consultant in Southportadded: "I think it's really important to understand that the fertile window is the day of ovulation and five days before.

“Post ovulation, women are not going to conceive. Both emergency hormonal contraceptive options work by delaying ovulation so they push the process further down the cycle.”

How to keep on track with your ovulation

If you want to avoid a pregnancy scare then there are ways to track your ovulation.

This can help you avoid unprotected sex when you are most fertile.

Apps are available that specifically just track your period and other health and wellness apps such as Fitbit also offer functions for you to track your periods.

These show you when your fertile window is, warn you when your next period is coming and when you are ovulating.

Another way to monitor when you're ovulated is to check what fluids are in your knickers.

When you're ovulating it's like that you'll have a creamy thick mucus on the tissue or in your knickers.

Ovulation usually occurs around 10-16 days before your period starts.

If you have a regular cycle then it's easy to monitor this. But if you don't checking for discharge is a key indicator.

The NHS states that your body temperature is also a key indicator.

Its advice states: "If there's a small rise in body temperature after ovulation takes place, which you may be able to detect with a thermometer.

Some women may experience other symptoms when they're ovulating, including breast tenderness, bloating and mild tummy pain, but these are not a reliable way of predicting ovulation.

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