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Levonorgestrel (Emergency Contraceptive Pill)


What does it do?

Levonorgestrel is used to prevent pregnancy after you have had unprotected sex. This includes contraceptive failure such as a condom breaking or missing your regular contraceptive tablets.

How should you take it?

Take levonorgestrel as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours, after unprotected sex.
Sometimes levonorgestrel can make you feel sick or vomit. Taking the tablet with food may help prevent this. If you vomit within 3 hours of taking levonorgestrel, you will need to take another tablet.

Can you take other medicines?

Some medicines available without a prescription may react with levonorgestrel including:

  • orlistat (Xenical®)

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products (e.g. St John's wort) or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

Side EffectsRecommended action


If within 3 hours, you will need to get another tablet

Changes in periods

Nausea, abdominal pain

Sore breasts

Headache, dizziness, tiredness or weakness

Tell your health professional if troublesome

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • Tell your health professional if your last period was more than 5 days late, or if it was light or unusual in any way.
  • Tell your health professional if you are breastfeeding.
  • If you have very bad diarrhoea after taking levonorgestrel, it may not work for you. Discuss your options with your health professional.
  • If you weigh more than 70 kg, levonorgestrel may not work for you. Discuss your options with your health professional.
  • Most women should get their next period around the usual time (it might be a few days early or late). Contact your health professional if your next period is more than 5 days late, unusual in any way, or if you think you might be pregnant.
  • Levonorgestrel is for emergency use only and not suitable for regular contraception.
  • If you are already using regular contraception, continue to take this at the normal time.
  • Levonorgestrel does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Taking levonorgestrel doesn't make it harder to get pregnant if you want to later on.

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the PILs Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand. September 2019

For more general information about this sheet annd its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

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About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at the Canterbury District Health Board. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed