Plan B side effects, weight limit and more on this morning after pill
Living in a Post-Roe v. Wade is terrifying; make no mistake about it. However, one thing you don’t need to worry about (yet) is the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B. Although you shouldn’t use Plan B as your regular form of birth control, it is a very effective and useful option immediately after unprotected sex. You can pick it up without a prescription, order it from almost any drugstore or big box retailer with an online presence, and you don’t even have to do it yourself – you can send your sex partner, your best friend or your aunt get it back. , too. Now that access to safe and legal abortions is banned in many states, you need a solid backup plan for any unprotected sex you may have.
But it’s important to know what you’re putting in your body, how to use it, and how it works. Every time you take a new drug, you are undoubtedly overwhelmed with questions, even if it is not a medicine that has already taken quite a bit of heat. Is it basically the “abortion pill”? Will you need a D&C later? Can you still get pregnant? Will it work on bodies of all sizes? And how exactly will you feel after taking Plan B?
Whatever your question, an answer is available to appease your curiosity and concerns. And, remember, this is the perfect time to go see your doctor if you have any further questions.
How does Plan B work?
First of all, Plan B is just a brand name for a drug called levonorgestrel. Because it’s the most popular option with arguably the most name recognition, it also has a higher price tag. However, stores like Walmart, Target, and Amazon sell other brands of levonorgestrel, all with the same or similar reviews.
What is levonorgestrel? Levonorgestrel works by releasing chemicals in your body that prevent an egg from fully developing. It can also prevent an egg (which may have already developed) from attaching to your uterus.
“Emergency contraception or ‘morning after pills’ like Plan B are very effective in preventing pregnancy, regardless of the brand name,” shares Colleen Quinlan, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at the ‘University of Toledo, board certified Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner and former clinician at Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio. “Most brands use a synthetic hormone to prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation). If there is sperm in your body but no egg, fertilization cannot occur.”
In other words, because levonorgestrel prevents an egg from forming or attaching, it protects your body from sperm and the risk of getting pregnant. Since Plan B helps prevent pregnancy, it is not an “abortion pill”. Abortion pills terminate a pregnancy after it has already occurred. Plan B prevents pregnancy from occurring.
When should you take Plan B (or a similar emergency contraceptive)?
For emergency contraceptives, timing is everything. Plan B is most effective within the first five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. However, the sooner you take it, the more effective it will be.
“Plan B is 98-99% effective in preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours,” says Quinlan. “Plan B can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex and still be 85-90% effective in preventing pregnancy. Plan B and other brands are available for purchase by men and women at the pharmacy without a prescription.”
Does plan B expire?
The shelf life of Plan B is approximately four years. In other words, if you’re adamant that you don’t want to get pregnant and want to take extra precautions, it wouldn’t hurt to have one on “standby” in case of an emergency. That way, as soon as you have an “oops” moment, you know you have an emergency contraceptive that you can take right away. After the four years are up, your best bet is to replace your stock. It seems that the biggest risk of taking an expired plan B is that it might lose its effectiveness.
Is there a Plan B weight limit?
“Plan B begins to lose effectiveness when women weigh over 165 pounds or have a BMI over 25,” says Quinlan. “These women should consider taking the ELLA brand, which is available by prescription, as it is more effective in heavier women. It is not harmful for heavier women to take Plan B, and it can still be very effective in preventing pregnancy, but if available, these women are recommended to consider taking ELLA.”
The internet is full of people who will tell you that if you’re worried about your weight and the effectiveness of plan B, you can “only take two.” Although there doesn’t seem to be anything explicitly warned against it, you should still talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking more medicine than the instructions suggest. This may not warrant a visit, just a phone call to a doctor with whom you already have an established relationship.
A better option would be to talk to your doctor now, before you need emergency contraception. They can give you the best advice on Plan B and even prescribe ELLA to fill out and keep safe.
Are there any side effects of Plan B?
“You may experience nausea or headaches after taking Plan B, so it’s best taken with food,” Quinlan says. “You may have your next period earlier or later than expected, but probably within the week you were due. Your next period may also be lighter or heavier than normal for you. Birth control pills emergency are not abortion pills. They cannot harm you or your baby if you are already pregnant when you take them.”
Take a plan B? It looks like you’d be fine working if you need to. Still, you might consider taking the day off to catch up on your favorite show or listen to a podcast.
Colleen Quinlan, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at the University of Toledo, board-certified nurse practitioner in women’s health care, and former clinician at Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio