Plan B and Birth Control – Best Tips for You
As a responsible adult, you will know that an important part of a safe sexual relationship is the use of effective contraception. Your doctor or medical professional can provide you with the contraceptive pill, which is a simple and effective method of preventing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. All you need to do is to remember to take a pill each day. But what if you're not actually on the pill, or have only just started taking it? What if you forget to take it one day? In these situations, you need a backup, and that's where you need the added protection of "plan B.”
In case you were thinking can you take plan B while on birth control pills, the answer is yes. However, plan B should not replace regular birth control. You can, and should, take your regular birth control pill the same day as you take plan B.
What You Need to Know about Plan B
What does plan B do, and can you take plan B while on birth control pills?
Also known as the morning after pill, plan B is your second line of defense against an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Like the other contraceptive pills, plan B is simply a pill that you take orally and which serves as a barrier to contraception.
1. How does plan B interact with the birth control pill?
Both plan B and the standard contraceptive pill contain the hormone levonorgestrel. This is a type of progestin which slows ovulation and thickens the entrance of the cervix, thereby preventing sperm from entering. Health professionals have been asked "Should I take plan B if I'm on birth control?” and the answer is yes. However, it is important to note that plan B is not a primary birth control methods. It is right there in the name: plan B should not be your go-to method of birth control, but merely the one that you use if you think your standard method may have failed or is at risk for any reason.
2. How does plan B work?
As you probably know, during ovulation a woman's ovary releases an egg. If this egg is fertilized by sperm, generally during a sexual encounter, the egg implants in the uterus, leading to pregnancy. If the process is interrupted at any stage – for example, if the sperm cannot reach the egg (which is generally the case when a condom is used during sex), or if the egg is not released in time or fails to implant, fertilization doesn't occur, and therefore neither does pregnancy. Both plan B and birth control pills are designed to interrupt the fertilization process.
3. How do you take plan B?
Plan B is relatively simple to obtain, and you may be able to get it without a prescription or an appointment. Otherwise, your doctor or health professional can prescribe plan B for you. The pill itself is taken orally, preferably with food, and is most effective when taken no later than 72 hours after unprotected sex, or when you think you are at an increased risk of pregnancy.
4. How effective is plan B?
Like the pill, plan B is not 100% effective as protection against pregnancy. However, studies show that when plan B is used correctly, the egg fails to fertilize or fails to implant in the cases it does fertilize, in 91-99% of cases. There is a reason why plan B is called the "morning after” pill. It is crucial that you take plan B as early as possible after you think you might need it. The longer it is before you take it, the more likely fertilization and implantation will occur, and once this happens, all bets are off.
5. Thinking about taking plan B long-term?
Oral contraception is one of the safest and most effective methods of birth control available. It has been used for over fifty years by millions of women, and problems are rare. However, you should always consult your doctor or medical professional before taking any type of birth control, as there may be health issues particular to you.
Are There Any Known Side Effects of Plan B?
There are some side effects from taking plan B, the main ones being the following:
- Changes to periods: Some women find that their periods are irregular or heavier than normal immediately following a dose of plan B. You may also experience cramping or spotting. If your symptoms persist, speak to your doctor.
- Nausea and vomiting: When taking plan B, you are temporarily increasing your intake of hormones. This can cause you to feel queasy or have an upset stomach. If you do vomit as a result, and it's been less than two hours since you took plan B, you may have vomited the pill up. Check with your doctor as you may need to take another dose. If you are experiencing extreme nausea, seek medical help.
- Dizziness: Again, this is a side effect of the additional hormones you have absorbed. You may notice some light-headedness, but this is usually a short-term problem.
- Tiredness and fatigue: You may find yourself lacking in energy for a short time. Take breaks. You may even want to nap. The feeling shouldn't last long, but again, consult your doctor if you are feeling run-down for more than a few days.
- Breast tenderness and headaches: Many women experience these complaints as a normal part of their menstrual cycle, due to the additional hormones during the second half of the cycle. It is to be expected that ingesting even more hormones may cause more aches and pains. Unless there are additional problems--for example, vision changes along with the headaches--these should not be considered dangerous.
Your best and safest protection against unwanted pregnancy is a regular, effective method of birth control. However, it's worth remembering that you can take plan B while on birth control pills. So if you have any doubt or worries about your regular method of birth control, at least you have a backup plan.