Because the morning-after pill is most effective when taken right after unprotected sex, it’s not a bad idea to keep a pack on hand. But Vandna Jerath, MD, FACOG, medical director at Optima Women’s Healthcare in Colorado, warns against stockpiling emergency contraception for one specific reason: the morning-after pill is not something you take on a regular basis, and it eventually expires.
Once the expiration date has passed, the morning-after pill is no longer guaranteed to work as intended. “Expiration dates are designed to reflect the time period in which the medication retains its strength, quality, and purity, providing the medication is stored properly,” Sierra Richard, PharmD, a women’s health and pediatric clinical pharmacist, told POPSUGAR.
Dr. Richard went on to explain that the further out from the expiration date you get, “the less effective the medication will be, lowering your chance of preventing pregnancy.” She added that the pill’s efficacy can drop even further the longer you wait to take it after having unprotected sex.
While the morning-after pill can have a shelf life of three to five years, it’s important that you store it properly during that time. Dr. Jerath advises against storing medications of any kind in areas with high humidity, which can render the ingredients less effective. “Stray away from bathrooms where steamy showers are present; humidity should be avoided,” Dr. Jerath told POPSUGAR. “Ideally, a dry drawer or cabinet at room temperature would be the right place.”
To make sure you never find yourself stuck with an expired pill in an emergency, Dr. Richard recommends cleaning out your (dry and cool) medicine cabinet every three to six months and setting a reminder in your phone to throw out medications when they’re near expiring.
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