What is Plan B and When Should it be Used?
Plan B is a type of emergency contraception that can be used after unprotected sex, contraceptive failure, or sexual assault to prevent pregnancy. It contains levonorgestrel, a hormone that is commonly found in many birth control pills, but at a higher dose.
Plan B is not a regular form of birth control and should not be used as such. It is only intended for emergency use and is not as effective as regular contraception. Women should use regular birth control methods to prevent unintended pregnancy.
Plan B should be used as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but it can be taken up to 72 hours after. However, it is more effective the sooner it is taken. It can also be used if a woman misses one or more birth control pills, a condom breaks, or if a diaphragm or cervical cap slips out of place.
It is important to note that Plan B does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women who are concerned about STIs should use condoms or other forms of barrier protection during sexual activity.
How Does Plan B Prevent Pregnancy?
Plan B contains levonorgestrel, which is a synthetic hormone that is similar to progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that is naturally produced by the ovaries during the menstrual cycle. Levonorgestrel works by preventing ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovary.
If there is no egg released, there is nothing for sperm to fertilize, and pregnancy cannot occur. Plan B also thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg if it has already been released. In addition, it thins the lining of the uterus, which makes it less hospitable for a fertilized egg to implant and grow.
It is important to note that Plan B is not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. If a woman has already ovulated before taking Plan B, or if she takes it too late, it may not be effective. Women who take Plan B should still use a regular form of birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy.
How Effective is Plan B at Preventing Pregnancy?
Plan B is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but it can be taken up to 72 hours after. It is estimated to be about 95% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex. The effectiveness decreases over time and is only about 61% effective if taken between 48 and 72 hours after unprotected sex.
It is important to note that Plan B is not as effective as regular forms of birth control, such as the pill, patch, or IUD. Women who use regular forms of birth control correctly and consistently have a much lower risk of unintended pregnancy than women who rely on emergency contraception like Plan B.
In addition, Plan B does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women who are concerned about STIs should use condoms or other forms of barrier protection during sexual activity.
Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Plan B?
Plan B is generally considered safe and does not have any serious or long-term side effects. However, some women may experience mild side effects after taking it, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bleeding or spotting
These side effects are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days. Women who experience severe or persistent side effects should contact their healthcare provider.
It is important to note that Plan B is not recommended for women who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant. It is also not recommended for women who have a history of blood clots or liver disease. Women who have questions or concerns about whether Plan B is safe for them should talk to their healthcare provider.
Where Can You Get Plan B and How Much Does it Cost?
Plan B is available without a prescription to women of any age at most pharmacies and drugstores. It can also be obtained at many college health centers, family planning clinics, and women’s health clinics. It is important to note that some pharmacies may require an appointment with a pharmacist to obtain Plan B.
The cost of Plan B varies depending on where it is purchased and whether a generic or brand-name version is used. The cost typically ranges from $30 to $60, but some insurance plans may cover the cost or provide a discount. In addition, some states have laws that require pharmacies to provide emergency contraception to women without a prescription or insurance.
It is important for women to have access to emergency contraception like Plan B in case of an emergency or contraceptive failure. Women who have questions or concerns about obtaining Plan B should contact their healthcare provider or a local family planning clinic.