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Sex + Relationships

Plan B: How Much Do You Actually Know About It?

Plan B. The morning after pill. Emergency contraception pill. All of these names refer to the medication people with female anatomy can take after having unprotceted sex in odrer to prevent pregnancy. Most people are familiar with these names and the mediation’s purpose, but there are still plenty of misconceptions around emergency contraception. In this article, we will be talking primarily about emergency contraception that is commonly available at drug stores and where a prescription is not necessary. These types of emergency contraception are not the only options available; other options such as a Paraguard IUD or ella may be more effective depending on your timeframe and weight (For example, if you have a higher BMI ella will likely be more effective than other emergency contraception pills). Planned Parenthood has a quiz in order to figure out what type of emergency contraception is most effective for you according to your weight, when the unprotected sex occured, along with other factors: https://tools.plannedparenthood.org/ec/title_screen 

Now, let’s cover some of the most common questions people have about emergency contraception!


Firstly, when is it needed? 

Emergency contraception can be taken if you miss a regular dose of your birth control, if a condom breaks, if a partner did not pull out in time, if you had unprotected sex unwillingly, or if you do not know if unprotected sex occured. 


Can I take it the morning after having unprotected sex? 

Yes, it can be taken the next morning. However, the sooner you take it after having unproected sex, the more effective it is at preventing pregncancy. Hence, the name “the morning after pill” can be slightly misleading. It can also be taken up to five days after having unproctected sex, but it is reccomended to take it within three days. Just remember–the sooner the better. 


What exactly is in the morning after pill? 

All emergency contraception pill brands besides ella contain a hormone called levonorgestrel. This hormone is what allows the morning after pill to help prevent pregnancy; it is the same hormone that is found in lower doses in a variety of birth control pills. However, emergency contraception is not a recommended form of regular birth control. 


Does the morning after pill end a pregnancy? In other words, does it work like an abortion pill? 

No. The morning after pill works at delaying or preventing ovulation so that fertlization of the egg does not occur, while the abortion pill (Mifeprex) terminates the already fertlized egg which has begun to develop. 


What are some of the side effects I can expect after taking it? 

The most common side effects include cramping, nausea, headache, and sore breasts. Additionally, your next period might be different than what you are used to–it may be slightly lighter, heavier, spottier, later, earlier, or the same. If you are having pain or discomfort in the weeks following taking the pill, call your doctor. Additionally, if you do not have a period in the weeks following, you are advised to take a pregnancy test. 


How much does it cost? 

Emergency contraception prices will slightly depend on the brand you get. For example, most drug stores carry a generic version of Plan B that may be slightly cheaper than Plan B itself. Additionally, other brands like Take Action and My Way usually cost less than Plan B. In general though, over the counter emergency contraception will usually run between $30-60. You do not have to be a certain age or gender in order to purchase emergency contraception, but some pharmacies keep it locked in a box or behind the counter, so you may have to ask a pharmacist or store clerk to help get it for you.  


Well there you have it–a basic overview of the morning after pill. If you have any questions or concerns regarding emergency contraception, please contact your local pharmacist or check out the websites I have linked to below. Please email [email protected] with any additional questions or topics related to sexual health…they could get covered in a future article!






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