Let’s Talk About Plan B (and other forms of emergency contraception)



Practicing safe sex is very important for many reasons. One reason we will focus on today is preventing unplanned pregnancies even after having unprotected sex. This is where emergency contraception (“EC”) enters the scene — it helps prevent pregnancy after the deed is done. Some people still call it the “morning after pill” but you have a bit more time than that to get your hands on it. Plan B is usually the first to come to mind we think of EC — but there are other options  and we will be discussing those as well!

When should you use emergency contraception?

If you had unprotected sex, EC can be used to prevent pregnancy. EC is most effective if taken right after unprotected sex occurs but can actually be used up to 5 days after (Side Note: as days go by, the effectiveness goes byebye).

Are there any side effects?

The side effects of Plan B are similar to other hormonal birth control and generally not an issue for most people. In case you do have any side effects, these are normal:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Tender breasts
  • Abdominal pain or cramps

These side effects only last a couple days. Also, your menstrual cycle may become affected (light, heavy, early, or late). Do not worry if this occurs. However, if you have severe abdominal pain or do not get your next period, please visit your primary care physician or gynecologist.

Is Plan B FDA-approved?

Yes! It’s a very safe medication that has no contraindications or safety concerns.

Are there options other than Plan B?

Yes! Let’s dive right into this subject!

There are a few options available to you.  The first is the popular Plan B One-Step pill or one of its many generic forms (Take Action, Aftera, React, MyWay, etc).

The second is the Ella pill, which is less famous because it requires a prescription but works a bit better than Plan B.  You can only pick one of these two pills. Taking both is a recipe for failure since they basically cancel each other out, so please don’t try it.

Your third and most effective option is the copper IUD. If you’re interested in this one, check with your local clinics to see if you can get it quickly enough. It’s a good idea to take one of the pill options while you figure out the IUD.

How do EC pills work?

Little known fact, it can take up to 6 days for the sperm and egg to meet after having unprotected sex. This form of birth control causes the woman’s ovary to delay releasing the egg. Hence, there will be no egg for the sperm to meet! Sorry guys.

Now that we’ve discussed these options, you’re probably wondering how you can get a hold of them…

No matter how old you are or your gender, anyone can buy Plan B or one of its generic versions over-the-counter — that means no prescription needed — at your local pharmacy. However, everyone needs a prescription for Ella. A prescription for Plan B will probably help get your insurance to pay for it though.

You can meet with Dr. Sally at The Pharmacists Clinic and get a prescription for EC or other methods of birth control. Tip: Go in and get it before you need it. That way you can just grab it out of your medicine cabinet if the situation presents itself.

Remember, these are back up and there are more effective methods of birth control that can be used before you jump in between the sheets.


About the Author:

Bianca S. Faridian is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.