Plan B

 

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:

  1. by keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg
  2. prevents fertilization (sperm and egg meeting)
  3. 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?

  1. Take the two white pills together as soon as possible, within 5 days of unprotected intercourse.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • 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
  • Pharmacies
  • 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

 

FS418a
Revised March 2009