The plan B pill is an American branded morning after pill. Its UK equivalent is Levonelle. Each brand of pill contains 1500 micrograms of levonorgestrel which is its active ingredient. Whilst it is called the morning after pill it is, in fact, most effective if taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The statistics for its efficacy are as follows:
If taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex - 95% effective
If taken between 48 and 72 hours of unprotected sex - 61% effective
It is worth considering the use of Plan B One-Step if you are not using any regular form of contraception and any of the following events occur :
It is worth noting that the morning-after pill is not as effective as regular forms of contraception
Levonorgestrel, which is a synthetic hormone that acts in a similar way to progesterone, is the active ingredient in the plan B pill. This ingredient operates to prevent pregnancy beginning in several ways
The release of the egg from the ovary is either delayed or prevented completely
Should the egg become fertilised, it causes changes in the lining of the uterus that prevents the fertilised egg from implanting
Plan B One-Step can be bought over the counter in America and the English equivalent, Levonelle is available without prescription over the counter in pharmacies, from sexual health and contraception clinics as well as from abortion clinics.
It should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex has taken place, preferable within 24 hours but can be taken within 5 days.
As time is of the essence in terms of taking the pill swiftly, it may be worth holding a supply in the medicine cabinet. However, it is far more advisable that a regular, more reliable form of contraception is considered rather than relying on emergency contraception.
Although many women will not experience side effects from emergency contraception, there are some that will.
Prospective side effects include:
Levonorgestrel may cause some bleeding but this should stop before the next period arrives. Your next period may also be heavier or lighter than usual and it may appear later or earlier than normal. If your period hasn’t arrived within three weeks it is important that you take a test to confirm that you are not pregnant
There is absolutely no evidence that Plan B One-Step will have any effect on your becoming pregnant in the future. Neither is there any evidence to suggest that it will have any effect on your likelihood of miscarrying in future pregnancies?
There is no limit to how many times you take Plan B
If you take Plan B while you are pregnant it will not affect the pregnancy. There is no evidence to date that the pill will affect the growing fetus.
If you are able to take the contraceptive pill without a problem then you will almost definitely be able to take Plan B pills.
Plan B One-Step is accepted in the US as being the most cost-effective and convenient form of emergency contraception available to women.
However, it has a high failure rate in women who are overweight.
In a large European study testing the effects of levonorgestrel 1.5 mg (Plan B), it was shown that its potency drops in women over 165 pounds and is non-existent once a woman gets to 175 pounds.
Theories exist as to why increased weight leads to decreased efficacy of levonorgestrel including the extra dilution of the drug in larger blood volumes, hormones becoming tucked away in fat cells or the system of a heavier person metabolising the drug in a different way but none of these theories have been proven.
It may simply be that a heavier person needs a larger dose but to do this in practice would be prohibitively complicated.
Fortunately, the alternative EC pill Ella (EllaOne in the UK) appears to be just as effective in heavier women.
The other emergency contraceptive pill available has the active ingredient ulipristal acetate and is sold as Ella in the US and EllaOne in the UK. It is more effective than Plan B and Levonelle.
Ella maintains the same level of effectiveness if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. It is a better choice if you have waited more than 24 hours to seek emergency contraception. Its effectiveness does not diminish if given to someone with a BMI over 25
Insertion of a copper intrauterine device (IUD) can be carried out up to five days after ovulation; this will prevent a pregnancy from occurring. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception being 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Plan B One Step is NOT an abortion pill. It is a form of emergency contraception that prevents unwanted pregnancy.
It is important to be clear about the morning after pill. It is a form of emergency contraception that prevents pregnancy from occurring by delaying or stopping ovulation and preventing the egg from becoming implanted in the wall of the uterus; it does not terminate an existing pregnancy.
To end an early pregnancy requires the abortion pill. If you are looking to terminate an early pregnancy it will be necessary to seek help and counseling from a professional trained in this field. For further information and advice contact your GP or one of the organisations that specialise in abortion such as the NHS, BPAS, or Marie Stopes.