What is it?
Plan B is an Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) that can be used by a woman to prevent pregnancy.Plan B can be taken after unprotected vaginal intercourse or a known or suspected birth control failure (i.e. broken condom, missed pills). It contains the hormone progestin (levonorgestrel). Plan B is most effective if you take it as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse but can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) to prevent pregnancy. Plan B is not the same as the abortion pill (RU486) and does not work if you are already pregnant. Plan B is not the same as taking a large dose of birth control pills or taking Ovral® (estrogen and progestin).
Plan B is for emergency use only. Plan B is not recommended for regular use because it is less effective than regular birth control pills.
How does it work?
You must start taking Plan B within 5 days of unprotected intercourse. Plan B works in one of three ways:
- by keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg
- prevents fertilization (sperm and egg meeting)
- may prevent implantation
How effective is it?
Plan B is the most effective ECP, reducing the risk of pregnancy by up to 89%. Plan B may not work if:
- a fertilized egg was already implanted in your uterus before taking the pills
- too much time went by between unprotected intercourse and taking the pills
How do I use Plan B?
- Take the two white pills together as soon as possible, within 5 days of unprotected intercourse.
- Plan B usually causes less nausea than other ECPs that contain estrogen. However, if you do feel nauseous, it is usually mild and should go away within a day. You can take an anti-nausea medication (such as GravolTM). If you do vomit, a replacement dose is not necessary unless the pills are visible in the vomit or it has been less than one hour since you took the pills.
- You should begin your period within 3 weeks of taking Plan B. If you still haven't had a period after 21 days, return to the clinic for a pregnancy test.
Who should not use Plan B?
It is important to talk to your doctor before taking Plan B if any of the following apply to you:
- pregnancy (If you are pregnant Plan B will not be effective)
- allergy to any component of the drug (e.g., lactose)
- unusual vaginal bleeding that has not been diagnosed
- known or suspected breast cancer or active liver disease or tumour
What if I'm giving Plan B to someone else?
If this medication is going to be used by someone other than yourself, please:
- Give them the fact sheet (found below) to read before they take Plan B
- Point out the reasons someone should not take Plan B, and the reasons to speak to their doctor (this information is on the front page)
- Remind them to call 1-800 SEX-SENSE if they have any questions
Will Plan B harm an unborn fetus?
There is no evidence that Plan B would harm a pregnant woman or the developing fetus if the product were accidentally taken during early pregnancy.
Could there be side effects?
Plan B can cause minor side effects, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
- Menstrual changes (your period may be a few days earlier or later than expected)
Can I get Plan B in British Columbia without a prescription?
Plan B is available without prescription from Options for Sexual Health clinics and most pharmacies.
Keep in mind...
- If you have purchased Plan B in advance of need, be sure to check the expiry date before you use it.
- Plan B does not provide protection from HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections.
- You can buy up to 3 packages of Plan B before you need it, just in case.
- If the unprotected act was not consensual (sexual assault), support is available.
- Plan B will not protect you from pregnancy if you have unprotected intercourse after you take it.
- After taking Plan B, you can start to use a reliable, on-going method of birth control if you would like to prevent pregnancy. A health care provider at an OPT clinic would be happy to discuss birth control options with you.
Where else can I get Plan B?
- Youth clinics
- Family doctor
- Walk-In Clinics
- Hospital emergency department
Options for Sexual Health has someone available to answer questions about Plan B during clinic hours or you can call the SEX SENSE Line at 1-800 SEX-SENSE (739-7367) or 604-731-7803 in the Lower Mainland.
If you need emergency contraception and the clinic is not open:
- call your family doctor, walk-in clinic, or your local pharmacy
- call 1-888 NOT-2-LATE
- go to the emergency room of a local hospital
Revised March 2009