Welcome to my Ask Andy page! This is your opportunity ask me the burning questions that are on your mind – and they can be about anything you want advice on!

Sibusisiwe, from Johannesburg, asks:

Andy, I’m really bad at taking my pill – I forget all the time. I have a boyfriend, and we are sexually active. Because I forget to take my pill, I usually take the morning after pill on a regular basis to stop myself from falling pregnant. Is this a problem? My friend says it’s not good for you?

Hi Sibusisiwe,

Firstly, let’s have a look at the morning-after pill. It is called emergency contraception for a reason – it should only be used for emergencies. Depending on which morning-after pill brand you choose, you will need to take a certain number of tablets at a certain time.

There are a couple of different ways the morning-after pill works. It tries to stop ovulation (provided you haven’t already ovulated), it alters your menstrual cycle (meaning it can delay your ovulation), and it irritates the lining of your womb, making it difficult for the fertilized egg to implant in your womb. This can often result in bringing on your period earlier.

The morning-after pill may make you feel quite nauseous and ill. You may suffer from headaches and feel tired or dizzy. This is because you are taking a large amount of chemical hormones in one go.

Now, using the morning-after pill every now and then – when it’s a real emergency such as a condom breaking – is not considered to be a problem. It is generally recommended that you don’t use the morning-after pill more than once in a menstrual cycle.

We are not sure about the long-term side effects of using the morning-after pill as a regular contraceptive method. There aren’t really many long-term studies looking at this, and there aren’t many guidelines with regards to how often you can take the morning-after pill. Some think that taking such large amounts of chemical hormones on a regular basis could predispose you to cancer, or that it could affect your fertility due to consistently manipulating your menstrual cycle. The morning-after pill is also thought to have a link to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (where your baby develops somewhere other than your womb, such as in your fallopian tube).

I personally am not comfortable with the idea of taking such large amounts of hormones on a regular basis – especially more than once a month. What I would advise you is to do is to either keep taking your daily pill and use condoms as well so that when you realize you forgot to take your pill, you know that you are covered. Even better would be to set an alarm on your phone for the same time every day reminding you take your pill. If you still cannot remember to take your pill, then I would recommend considering injectable contraceptives which are given either every two months, or every three months depending on which brand you choose. Injectable contraceptives are just as effective (if not more effective) than the pill.

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