Levonorgestrel Emergency Contraceptive – Uses and Side Effects

Levonorgestrel is an emergency hormonal contraceptives taken by women to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex or after a birth control method failed like in the case of a broken condom.

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This drug is known by many other names such as “plan B”, “the morning after pill” “my way”, “next choice one dose”, and others. You can get it without a doctor’s prescription.

Levonorgestrel contains progestin, a hormone that prevents the ovulation (the release of eggs) during your menstrual cycle. It also prevents fertilization by making the vaginal fluid thicker, this makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the eggs.

Another way this drug prevents pregnancy is by changing the lining of the womb, this prevents the attachment of fertilized egg to the walls of the uterus. This drug is not supposed to be used as a regular form of birth control, which is why it is called an emergency pill.

Levonorgestrel cannot stop an existing pregnancy and neither can it protect you from HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. This drug is very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy but it might not work in women who are overweight (greater than 74 kilograms or 164 pounds).

It might also not work for you if you have used certain medications in the past month and this can result in pregnancy even after taking Levonorgestrel.

How To Use Levonorgestrel Tablets

If the drug was prescribed by a doctor, you take it according to the prescription but if you got it over-the-counter, read all the directions written on the package before you take it or ask the pharmacists on how best to take the drug.

After having unprotected sex, take one tablet orally as soon as possible. It can be taken with or without food and this drug is most effective when taken with 3 days after having unprotected sex.

If you vomit after 2 hours of taking this drug, call your doctor and ask him if you can repeat the dose. Levonorgestrel will affect when your period comes and how much you bleed and you may need a pregnancy test if your period is more than 7 days late.

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Interactions

Levonorgestrel may react with certain drugs and this will change how the drug works or increase your risk for severe side effects. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the drugs or products you are taking before you start taking the drug.

Some medications when taken along with Levonorgestrel can weaken its effects by decreasing the amount of birth control hormone in your body and this can result in pregnancy even when you take the drugs.

Some of the drugs that shouldn’t be taken along with Levonorgestrel are:

  • HIV drugs like nevirapine and nelfinavir,
  • Drugs used to treat seizures such as Topiramate, primidone, phenytoin, felbamate, carbamazepine, barbiturates, etc.
  • John’s wort
  • Griseofulvin
  • Modafinil
  • Rifamycins like rifabutin and rifampin

Take Levonorgestrel according to the dosage and do not change it without your doctor’s approval.

Precautions

You have to let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are allergic to this drug or other progestins like norethindrone before taking it. Also, let them know if you have other allergies.

This drug might contain inactive ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or other health problems. You have to brief your doctor or pharmacist of your medical history especially if you have cases of unexplained vaginal bleeding.

Levonorgestrel may make you dizzy, so do not drive or use machines or do anything that requires you to be alert until you are fit to do so. You also have to talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana before taking this drug.

If pregnancy occurs after using this drug, you might have a low risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Also, this drug is not recommended for patients who are at risks of ectopic pregnancy.

Don’t use this drug during pregnancy and ask your doctor before taking it when breastfeeding. Although it can pass into the breast milk, it is unlikely to harm your baby.

Patients with severe cases of severe hepatic dysfunction and severe malabsorption syndromes like Crohn’s disease are not advised to take this drug because it can impair its efficiency.

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Also, women with rare hereditary disorders of glucose-galactose malabsorption, Lapp lactase deficiency, or glucose intolerance should not take this medicine.

Side Effects of Levonorgestrel

Some of the side effects of using Levonorgestrel are:

  • Abdominal pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Changes in menstrual bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Unusual menstrual bleeding, it can either be heavy or light
  • Bleeding in-between period

If these symptoms persist or get worse over time, you have to contact your doctor or pharmacists immediately. Let your doctor know of any serious side effects which can include severe pain in the lower stomach which persists after 3-5 weeks of taking Levonorgestrel.

This drug can also induce a severe allergic reaction, but this rare but you have to get emergency medical help if you notice that you’ve developed symptoms of serious allergic reactions. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Itching
  • Severe dizziness
  • Swellings on your tongue, throat, and face

Note that this is not a complete list of the possible side effects of Levonorgestrel, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately if you notice any other side effect after taking this drug.

Levonorgestrel should be stored at room temperature and kept in a cool and dry place out of the reach of children and pets.

Sources;

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a610021.html
  2. https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/7308/smpc
  3. https://www.drugs.com/cdi/levonorgestrel-systemic.html
  4. https://www.drugs.com/mtm/levonorgestrel-emergency-contraceptive.html
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