Plan B, a Morning-After Pill

If you unintentionally had unprotected sex or your method of contraception failed to work, you may need emergency contraception, and that is exactly what Plan B offers. Plan B is not intended to replace contraception and it is only effective for a brief window of time after the intercourse. But it is effective in helping women avoid unwanted pregnancy. This article is an overview of everything you need to know about Plan B, particularly how it works, how to use it properly, the cost of the pill, and what side effects you may expect.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Plan B morning-after pill? 

The brand name Plan B is a name for the morning-after pill. It consists of 1.5 mg of the hormone progestin in its synthetic form (levonorgestrel).

Plan B is highly regarded as emergency contraception. It contains a much higher dose of levonorgestrel than birth control pills. It also helps lower the pregnancy risk after having unprotected sex. 

However, healthcare professionals always warn patients that Plan B or any other morning-after pill should never be used as a birth control substitute. Using a more regular type of birth control gives you more control and efficacy.

If used appropriately, Plan B can be used as the tool to prevent pregnancy. However, it is vital to be informed of the potential adverse effects and known contraindications prior to taking it.

How does Plan B work and who is it for? 

Plan B should be used by women looking to avoid unwanted pregnancy as soon as possible upon unprotected intercourse or after other contraceptives have failed. It must be done within 72 hours since it works by delaying the ovulation. What’s more, the sooner a woman takes the tablet, the better. Plan B will no longer be effective beyond the specified time frame.

According to one important study, when taken on the day of or after ovulation, levonorgestrel has no impact on preventing pregnancy. Therefore, if you are going to take this pill, you should do it as soon as possible after the unprotected intercourse which you suspect may lead to pregnancy.

This has to do with how the drug works. Plan B prevents ovulation, the process wherein the ovary releases an egg. This implies that it  only works before the pregnancy is confirmed. Once the egg and sperm meet, fertilization follows and it gets implanted in the uterine lining.  If the woman is pregnant, Plan B will not work at all, but it would not affect the pregnancy either.

How to use Plan B properly? 

Plan B is taken orally as a single-dose tablet, and it should be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse. The sooner you have Plan B, the more effective it is going to be. The pill is most likely to be effective after having unprotected sex or when another method of contraception failed.

How effective is Plan B?  

As with any other drug, Plan B needs to be used as directed. Approximately 7 out of 8 women who were at high risk of pregnancy due to unprotected sex avoided getting pregnant by taking Plan B as directed.

But even so, it is not easy to accurately determine Plan B’s effectiveness without collecting data on exactly how many women got pregnant upon taking it. According to some studies that estimated the effectiveness of emergency contraception, it is safe to say that Plan B lowers the risk of pregnancy by up to 75 – 89% if you take it within 72 days of having unprotected sex.

BMI matters as well. Plan B is found to be most effective in women with a BMI or body mass index under 25. The pill may not be nearly as effective as it should be in women struggling with obesity and a BMI over 30.

For how long should I take Plan B? 

The Plan B One-Step is composed of a single pill. The pill should be taken right after unprotected intercourse or as soon as possible, within 72 hours at the latest. The same goes for having sex with a method of contraception that failed, which is the case with missing a dose of contraceptive pill. Its efficacy is at its highest when taken within 3 days of having unprotected sex, otherwise it may not work at all.

When it comes to the proper way to take the pill, there are no specific requirements. This pill can be taken before or after a meal and it will be equally effective, as long as it is taken within the specified timeframe. However, it is important to swallow it whole with water without halving it.

Is Plan B similar to abortion pills? 

No. Plan B is not the same as an abortion pill and it is only meant as a method of prevention of unplanned, unintended, or unwanted pregnancies. 

Levonorgestrel works to prevent pregnancy, not end it. Namely, Plan B hinders ovulation, which is why it can never work on a woman who is already pregnant.

How to check if Plan B worked? 

Plan B is most effective if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex. But once ovulation has started, there is a big chance that it might not prevent pregnancy at all. If a woman took Plan B but her next period is more than one week late,, there’s a good chance that Plan B has not worked. If this happens to you, it is essential that you take a pregnancy test in the morning to confirm it and then discuss your next steps and options with a healthcare practitioner.

Want to Know More About Plan B?

Plan B is safe and effective in preventing pregnancy when used as directed. Most individuals who take it have nothing to worry about. 

However, there are potential risks. Most medications can potentially cause side effects, and Plan B is no exception. It is important to be aware of and prepared for the possible contraindications associated with the drug so you may follow the instructions on the label to help avoid them.

Any of its side effects may be mild only and may happen for a short period of time. It is common to experience irregular menstrual periods, particularly delayed or earlier by several days.

Furthermore, it could affect your monthly period in the succeeding month. The side effects generally subsides over time without doing anything. However, should you miss your period more than one week following your expected time, it is suggested to have a pregnancy test or seek medical help.

Plan B’s most common side effects:

  • changes in your monthly period
  • tenderness in the breast 
  • nausea or vomiting
  • dizziness or headache
  • cramps in the lower abdomen
  • tiredness

Should you experience vomiting after taking emergency contraception, consult your pharmacist or doctor immediately. Chances are you may need to take another pill.

Patients on certain medication regimens may be at risk. A number of natural items and drugs may interfere with the effectiveness of Plan B, so discuss with your pharmacist or doctor if you are taking one of these:

  • any HIV/AIDS drugs
  • St. John’s wort
  • topiramate
  • phenobarbital and other barbiturates
  • carbamazepine
  • bosentan
  • felbamate
  • oxcarbazepine
  • griseofulvin
  • phenytoin
  • rifampin

According to healthcare professionals who specialize in maternal fetal medicine and OB-GYN, Plan B is not a safe option for a woman who:

  • might already be pregnant
  • is hypersensitive or allergic to ingredients
  • has a history of clotting or unusual bleeding
  • has a certain condition listed as contraindicated in the medicine

Plan B is a brand name medicine for emergency contraception that is levonorgestrel-based. The tablet is affordable and available without a prescription. Plan B and other levonorgestrel-based morning-after pills have the same ingredients and exhibit the same mechanism of action.

There are other ways to seek a low-cost or generic form for emergency contraception. One of them is getting it from specialized clinics and associations that focus on family planning and abortion prevention.

Since Plan B is available in pharmacies as an over-the-counter medication. The pill can be purchased without a prescription or even an ID. 

According to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Plan B is completely safe to use. The pill received its FDA approval in 2013, which has made Plan B One-Step available to women of all ages who are looking to avoid pregnancy.

Aside from being available in pharmacies and family planning clinics, Plan B is also available for purchase online. It’s main advantage is that you can have it delivered discreetly at your doorstep.

There are several counterparts for the Plan B morning-after pill. The hormone levonorgestrel is the generic name sold under several brand names. 

The morning-after pill ellaOne is another effective form of emergency contraception and it can be taken within 5 days of having unprotected sex. It contains the contraceptive hormone ulipristal and it can be taken for emergency contraception as soon as possible or no later than 5 days after having unprotected sex. 

While both morning-after pill varieties are safe to take to avoid pregnancy, there is an important difference: Plan B can be purchased over-the-counter, while ulipristal-based emergency contraception requires a prescription.

All these factors should be taken into account when deciding on the pill to take, especially considering the fact that Plan B may not work on those who have had sexual intercourse within the last five days or those with BMI of 30 or more. For individuals with BMI of over 25, both pills may be ineffective.

You may also opt to speak with a pharmacist or doctor about your options when in doubt, or attend lectures about planned parenthood and family planning so they can advise you about the available contraceptive options.