The Take Action Morning-After Pill

Emergency Contraception Use and Review

The Take Action pill is the generic form of Plan B, a type of emergency contraception. Taking it within 24 to 48 hours of condomless sex or a birth control failure can help prevent unintended pregnancy.

The Take Action pill is not regular contraception but is intended to be used as a backup when mistakes happen. However, Take Action may not be suitable in all situations and may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

This article walks you through how to use the Take Action pill, when it is and isn't a good option, the potential side effects, its effectiveness, and where to buy it.

Take Action Morning-After Pill Side Effects

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

How It Works

Take Action contains levonorgestrel. That's a progestin (a female hormone) that's used in many birth control pills.

However, Take Action has more progestin than regular combination birth control pills. It also doesn't contain estrogen (the primary female hormone).

Some debate exists over how Take Action works. A popular theory holds that it stops you from ovulating (releasing an egg).

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines require labels of levonorgestrel morning-after pills to specify that emergency contraceptives may work by keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. However, there's conflicting evidence about whether they actually do this.

Take Action is most effective when you use it quickly. All morning-after pills become less effective as time passes.

Take Action is most effective within 24 hours after sexual activity. It's less effective between 24 and 48 hours afterward. After 48 hours, it's even less effective.

When used properly, Take Action significantly reduces your odds of getting pregnant. Research shows it prevents about 7 of every 8 potential pregnancies.

What It's Not Used For

It is important to be clear about what Take Action and other morning-after pills cannot do.

  • Won't terminate pregnancy: Take Action contains different drugs than the abortion pill (RU486). It won't cause a medical abortion. Take Action must be used before conception.
  • No continued protection: Take Action prevents pregnancy after a single instance of condomless sex or failed contraception. It won't prevent pregnancy if you have condomless sex again after taking it.
  • Won't prevent infections: Take Action doesn't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV.

When to Use

You can use Take Action at any time of the month. You should consider it if you:

  • Didn't use birth control during sexual activity
  • Know or suspect your contraception failed

Examples of contraception failures include:

  • An external condom slipping off or breaking
  • Missing a few days of birth control pills
  • Miscalculating your fertile days
  • Your NuvaRing accidentally falling out

Emergency birth control may be effective up to five days later. Even so, you should use Take Action as soon as you can. The earlier you take it, the better your odds of it working.

Side Effects

When used correctly, Take Action is considered safe. Still, side effects are possible. The most common ones are:

  • A heavier or lighter period
  • Spotting before your period
  • Early or late start to your next period
  • Nausea, possibly vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Dizziness

If you vomit within two hours of using Take Action, you may throw up the medication before it has a chance to work. Call your healthcare provider to see if you should take it again. Don't take a second Take Action pill unless it's recommended by your provider.


You'll only know Take Action worked if you get your period. It should start within a week of when you'd normally expect it.

If you're more than seven days late, you could be pregnant. You may want to take a home pregnancy test. If it's positive, follow up with your healthcare provider.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Researchers suspect progestin-only contraceptives are linked to ectopic pregnancies. That happens when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus.

Usually, that occurs in a fallopian tube. It can rupture and cause serious internal bleeding.

This is life-threatening and requires immediate surgery. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include normal pregnancy symptoms plus:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Low back pain
  • Mild abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Mild pelvic cramps on one side

While the morning-after pill raises the risk, studies show it varies by progestin type and shouldn't deter you from using the product.

You may have an ectopic pregnancy if:

  • It's been three to five weeks since you used Take Action
  • You haven't had a period
  • You have symptoms of ectopic pregnancy

Get emergency medical help if you suspect an ectopic pregnancy.

Where to Buy 

You can buy Take Action and other morning-after pills at a pharmacy regardless of your age. You don't need a prescription.

Prescription for Insurance

While the morning-after pill is sold over the counter, your health insurance might cover the cost of it if you have a prescription.

Check your policy to see if it's covered. You may want to ask your healthcare provider for a prescription ahead of time. That way, it's available without delay if you need it.

Take Action can be bought over the counter, without a prescription, no matter your age.

Buying Tips

Most pharmacies and drugstores carry Take Action. Because taking it quickly is important, you may want to call ahead to see if it's in stock.

You may also find it helpful to buy Take Action ahead of time. Then it's ready right away if the need arises.


Take Action usually costs about 20% less than the brand-name product Plan B One-Step.

Still, it's among the more expensive options.

The Cost of Emergency Contraception
Plan B One-Step $45-$50
Take Action $35-$40
Other generics $10 and up


Take Action is emergency contraception. It's not an abortion pill. You can use it after condomless sex or birth control failure. It's believed to work by preventing ovulation.

Take Action works best in the first 24 hours. The longer you wait, the less likely it is to be effective. It's unlikely to work more than five days after you engaged in sexual activity. You'll only know it worked if you have a period or take a pregnancy test.

You can buy Take Action without a prescription and at any age. Check to see if your insurance company covers it and under what circumstances.

A Word From Verywell

Take Action is just one option for emergency contraception. Remember that you need to act quickly, before pregnancy has a chance to begin.

While you don't need a prescription, it's always smart to involve a healthcare provider in your healthcare decisions. If you can't see your regular provider right away, consider going to urgent care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the morning-after pill?

    The morning-after pill is a form of emergency birth control. It can prevent pregnancy but won't end an established pregnancy.

  • When is the morning-after pill used?

    The morning-after pill is for use after condomless sex or birth-control failure. Failures may be:

    • An external condom breaking or slipping off during sex activity
    • Your NuvaRing slipping off
    • An expired IUD
    • Miscalculating your fertile and non-fertile days (when using natural birth control)
  • How do morning-after pills work?

    Morning-after pills disrupt or delay ovulation or fertilization. That stops pregnancy from taking place. The pills contain either progestin (a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone) or anti-progestin agents.

  • What types of morning-after pills are there?

    Two types of emergency contraception (EC) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

    • Levonorgestel EC: A progestin-based EC sold under the brand name Plan B One-Step. Generic versions include AfterPill, My Way, Next Choice One Dose, and Take Action
    • Ella (ulipristal acetate): A progesterone agonist/antagonist that acts on progesterone receptors while blocking the action of progesterone itself
  • How does Take Action compare to Plan B?

    Take Action is the generic equivalent of Plan B One-Step. Take Action costs around 20% less.

  • How long is Take Action effective?

    Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptives like Take Action should be taken within 72 hours of condomless sex. They may work up to five days later.

  • What is the best morning-after pill?

    After 72 hours, Ella is the most effective morning-after pill. However, it requires a prescription. Plan B and generic versions like Take Action do not. Ella also tends to work better in people who weigh more than 155 pounds.

  • Are there alternatives to morning-after pills?

    Yes. A copper intrauterine device (IUD) is the most reliable form of emergency contraception. It works as well on day five as on day one. But it must be inserted by a healthcare provider, so it can be hard to get it in time.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: DailyMed. Label: Take Action - levonorgestrel tablet.

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  5. UpToDate. Patient education: Emergency contraception (morning after pill) (Beyond the Basics).

  6. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Ectopic pregnancy.

  7. Callahan R, Yacobson I, Halpern V, Nanda K. Ectopic pregnancy with use of progestin-only injectables and contraceptive implants: a systematic review. Contraception. 2015;92(6):514-22. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2015.08.016

  8. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Emergency contraception.

  9. Yale University, Yale Health. Emergency contraception - "morning after pill".

  10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA AccessData. Highlights of prescribing information: Ella (ulipristal acetate) tablet.

  11. Kardos L, Magyar G, Schváb E, Luczai E. Levonorgestrel emergency contraception and bodyweightCurr Med Res Opin. 2019;35(7):1149-1155. doi:10.1080/03007995.2018.1560250

  12. Goldstuck ND, Wildemeersch D. Practical advice for emergency IUD contraception in young womenObstet Gynecol Int. 2015;2015:986439. doi:10.1155/2015/986439

Additional Reading

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.