Everything you need to know about Plan B
Common phrases for referring to Plan B
The morning-after pill, Plan B pill, emergency contraception, Restart, Julie, Ella – so many names, so many brands, but what are they and what do they do? Here is everything you need to know about the morning-after pill, and all its many names.
Are Plan B and the morning-after pill the same thing?
All the terms above are used to refer to a pill you can take after having unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. While it is most commonly referred to as Plan B, Plan B is just a brand name for the emergency contraceptive pill.
How does Plan B work?
No matter the brand used, the pill does the same thing: it prevents or delays ovulation so sperm cannot fertilize the egg. Plan B works when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
Please note that Plan B is not the same as the abortion pill, the morning-after pill cannot terminate a pregnancy.
The morning-after pill with levonorgestrel can be between 75-89% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sex. The sooner you take it after unprotected sexual activity, the more effective it is.
How many times can you take Plan B?
Growing up, I was under the impression that taking an emergency contraceptive pill was completely unsafe and I could only take it three times in my lifetime. This is all completely false! You can take the morning after pill as many times as needed. You can take the pill while on other forms of birth control. It does not cause long-term side effects. It will not affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.
What are the side effects of Plan B?
While it is not recommended to use the morning-after pill as a consistent birth control method, taking it feels similar to taking a high dosage of birth control. The potential side effects are like that of a birth control pill, too: nausea, cramping, fatigue, vaginal bleeding. Again, there should be nothing long-term or severe.
In terms of the difference among brands and types of emergency contraceptive pills there are two kinds: ones that use ulipristal acetate (Ella) and ones that use levonorgestrel (Restart, Plan B One Step, Julie, My Way, etc.).
Emergency contraception with Ulipristal Acetate
The only ulipristal acetate pill (and the most effective pill on the market right now) is Ella, only available through prescription. This makes it slightly less accessible, but getting the prescription should be easy, depending on the state you live in. You should take Ella within five days of having unprotected sex.
Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill
Luckily, Levonorgestrel pills are available over-the-counter and online at most pharmacies and drug stores across the country. You should take them within three days of having unprotected sex. It is important to note that with any brand, the sooner you take the morning-after pill, the more effective it will be.
Are there other forms of emergency contraception besides Plan B pill?
Taking the pill is completely safe, but if it sounds unappealing, or you are thinking of going on a form of contraception anyway, an IUD can be inserted within five days of having unprotected sex and acts as a form of emergency contraception.
Weight can change the effectiveness of the pill. Ella is highly effective for those who weigh up to 195 pounds. Levonorgestrel pills are highly effective for those who weigh up to 165 pounds.
Know that if you do choose to take the morning-after pill, the fear and stigma surrounding it makes it seem scarier than it is. There is nothing shameful about taking it (I’ve done it, and it’s more common than you’d think – about 50% of women who have had unprotected sex take it in their lifetime!)
I feel like a broken record saying this at the end of every article I write, but seriously, the most important part of making the decision to take emergency contraceptive is that you are making a comfortable and safe decision for yourself.