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Life happens when it comes to life and when it comes to sex.
As healthcare providers, we try to work with our patients to find contraception that works for them, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen. Maybe a condom broke or you forgot to pick up your birth control, or maybe you just got swept up in the moment. Things happen. And there are good options to help prevent pregnancy before it even starts. One of those options is Plan B, an emergency contraceptive used to help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
In the rest of this article, we’ll refer to this pill as “plan B”, but please know that this applies to other medications with a similar one-time dose of Levonorgestrel, the active ingredient in Plan B.
Plan B, also called the Morning After Pill, is the brand name for a medication (a pill) that people with uteruses can take after unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy. There are other versions of the same pill that have the same dose of the active ingredient (Levonorgestrel) such as My Way and have similar effectiveness. These medications that you can purchase over-the-counter without a prescription or a visit to your doctor’s office.
Essentially, Plan B (Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg tablet) can help drastically reduce one’s chances of getting pregnant after unprotected sex.
It contains a high dose of Levonorgestrel, which is a hormone that has been used for decades in other birth control methods, like IUD’s or birth control pills. It’s a synthetic (lab-made) version of progesterone, which is a natural hormone made by the body.
The way that this medication works depends on where you’re at in your cycle. Typically, this medication mainly helps to stop ovulation, so it basically stops the egg being released from the ovary. Without an egg, sperm cannot fertilize an egg and start a pregnancy. Sometimes, this medication can also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
If implantation (a fertilized egg implants inside the uterus and starts growing) has already started, Plan B will not stop or reverse the pregnancy. There is no harm to the fetus at that point.
Plan B is used for people with a uterus who are capable of becoming pregnant and had unprotected vaginal sex with someone who has sperm within the last 72 hours. If that applies to you and if you don’t want pregnancy, then this is a good thing to consider.
It’s important to note that other emergency contraception options (other than Plan B) are not as effective for folks who are at a higher weight (such as 165 lb or higher, or Body mass index 25 or above). For those folks, we recommend talking to a healthcare provider about other more effective options.
Some reasons you may want emergency contraception and/or Plan B: You had unprotected sex (penis in vagina sex) within the last 72 hours You think that your birth control method might have failed - such as a condom breaking or not being used throughout sex or you forgot a few birth control pills
Take the full dose of Plan B within 3 days (72 hours) of unprotected sexual intercourse - this comes in a pill that you swallow. Some formulations of this pill come in 1-2 pills, so be sure to read the label and take the full effective dose. You can take it with or without food, but some people find it helps to have a little food in their stomach to prevent some side effects like nausea.
The sooner you take it within those 72 hours, the more likely this will work!
It’s important to remember that Plan B only works after unprotected sex - so if you have sex after taking Plan B, that does not prevent you from becoming pregnant
Plan B is very effective, especially if you take it sooner after sex and within the 72 hours of unprotected sex. Approximately, 1 to 7 out of 100 people will get pregnant after using Plan B.
If you don’t get a period within 3 weeks of taking this pill, take a home pregnancy test and talk to your healthcare provider since it’s possible that the medication was not effective.
Side effects vary depending on the person. Some common side effects include: Nausea Irregular vaginal bleeding: Most people get their period within about 1 week of taking this medication. But this can make your period early or late. Stomach pain Fatigue (feeling really tired) Headache Dizziness Breast tenderness Diarrhea
Yes, you can use it multiple times in the same cycle (month) - but this can cause irregular bleeding. If you find yourself using it more than once, we’d recommend working with a healthcare provider to find other options to prevent pregnancy, like daily birth control pills or IUD’s.
No, unfortunately this does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Using condoms, dental dams, talking to your partners about your statuses, and/or getting regularly tested and screened are ways to help prevent infections or treat them in early stages.
The great thing about Plan B is that it’s easy to access. There is no age limit and it’s available at your local pharmacy or online like through TBD. You don’t even need a visit to your doctor’s office first since no prescriptions are needed.
If you have questions about this or any ongoing medical conditions or other medications, we recommend talking to your healthcare provider about this to make sure this is a safe and healthy choice for you.