As a mostly grown woman, I'm just now able to look back on some of the """"Adult"""" conversations I thought I was having with girlfriends as a teenager and feel simultaneously revolted and relieved. For context: I went to school in Texas during a time when sex education was not required, and so none of us knew a thing about sex or how to have it safely. This left lots of room for girls to assert social dominance by "spreading knowledge" (AKA starting rumors) about anything sex-related, like Plan B.
But even outside of Texas, the emergency contraception rumor mill is rich. Women I know who grew up all over the country heard rumors just like the ones I did growing up – that Plan B would do things like make you gush blood, make you throw up, or make it impossible to have kids when you actually wanted them. So to put an end to the myths once and for all, Dr. Autumn Davidson, an Oregon-based OB/GYN, waded through the Plan B rumor mill. Because the actual most dangerous thing about Plan B is holding on to false information about it.
Myth 1: If you take Plan B too often, it doesn't work anymore.
Nope, not true. Plan B is just as effective the first time you take it as the fiftieth time, so long as you follow the instructions on the label and take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.
Myth 2: Plan B harms your fertility.
There's no evidence to suggest that Plan B – or any emergency contraceptive – has an adverse effect on your ability to get pregnant when you want to be. "Plan B is just a high dose of progestin, a similar hormone that we find in a birth control pill," Davidson said. There's no harm done to your fertility or future plans to have as many kids as you want.
Myth 3: Taking all your birth control pills at once is the same as taking Plan B.
While Davidson said you can take multiple pills to reach the progesterone equivalent of Plan B, this shouldn't be your first course of action if you think you need emergency contraception. "The number of pills necessary depends on which pill it is," she said. So if you try and figure it out yourself, or just take a wild guess, odds are you won't be administering a correct dosage. In an emergency situation where you can't get access to Plan B (which is available on Amazon, as well as at drug stores and places like Target and Walmart) but do have birth control pills, Davidson said you can ask your doctor the correct number of pills to take at once to mimic the effect of Plan B and prevent ovulation. But if you can get it, Plan B or a comparable emergency contraceptive should be your first choice.
Myth 4: Plan B will make you bleed. A lot.
One of the side effects of Plan B is spotting or even starting your period off-schedule, but this doesn't happen for everyone. Davidson said you can expect to have a bit of abnormal bleeding after taking Plan B, but it shouldn't be heavy. If you experience heavy bleeding (something more than spotting, or a flow heavier than your average period), you should call a doctor.
Myth 5: Plan B will make you really sick.
Davidson said some people experience nausea and cramping, but again, this doesn't happen to everyone every single time they take it. Things like nausea to the point of vomiting or abdominal pain are not typical, and are due cause to call a doctor.
Myth 6: Plan B will screw with your birth control pills.
If you take birth control pills and forgot to take one or otherwise slipped up, taking Plan B after having unprotected sex is not going to cause you any harm. But Davidson did mention something important about using these two things simultaneously. "If one does take Plan B, they should restart their birth control within a day or two," she said. Because Plan B works at preventing a pregnancy by preventing ovulation from taking place, it interrupts your menstrual cycle a bit. Which is totally fine and safe, but it does mean you're essentially starting back over on day one of your cycle – hence the need to restart your birth control pills. Something to keep in mind if you get your pills one month at a time. If you're not able to get a new pack of pills right away, make sure you're using a back up birth control method like condoms until you can.
Myth 7: Plan B only works if you take it the next morning, that's why it's called the "morning after pill."
Nope! Not so. What physicians know about Plan B is that it's most effective within 24 hours of unprotected sex – 95 percent effective, versus 88 percent effective within 24-72 hours. Those are still much better odds than not taking anything at all.
If you find yourself outside of that 72 hour window, you have other options, though they aren't quite as easy to get as Plan B is. The copper IUD works as a highly effective (99.9 percent) emergency contraceptive up to five days after unprotected sex and comes with the bonus of getting to keep an incredibly effective method of contraception for the next 12 years. If switching to an IUD isn't your jam, there's also a medication called ella that's also effective for up to five days after unprotected sex, though like Plan B, it's most effective in the first 24 hours.
But here's the thing about Plan B – you can stockpile this stuff. Instead of Googling open drugstores or fretting over shipping time when you need it most, you can have some on-hand to take when the moment strikes. It's small and easy to store, if you're worried about someone else finding it. Just note that it has a shelf life of four years, so like anything you keep in your fridge, throw it out when it expires. Wouldn't it be fun to be the friend who can be there with Plan B on hand in a pinch?
Myth 8: Plan B is the same as an abortion.
No. Nope! Not even remotely the same. Repeat after me: Emergency contraception is not an abortion. "That's a very important distinction," Davidson said. "A medical abortion will stop a pregnancy that is already implanted in the uterus. Plan B will prevent a pregnancy for ever implanting."
If that's not totally clear to you, here's what that means: A medication abortion (the kind where you take a set dose of pills, and which must be administered by a medical professional) works to terminate a pregnancy (AKA an egg that has been fertilized and implanted in your uterus) by detaching the fertilized egg from your uterine lining and dispelling the egg from your body. Plan B and similar medications (which are available over the counter) simply stop ovulation from happening – which means there will be no egg in your uterus for sperm to potentially fertilize. If it works the way it's meant to – and it does at least 88 percent of the time, if taken within 72 hours – Plan B makes it so that there's never a fertilized egg in your uterus at all.
The very fact that Plan B is so readily available and abortion is so highly regulated should prove the difference between the two. But in case you needed clarification, there it is. Once more, for good measure: Plan B is not the same as an abortion. Now go forth and stock up, because that's something you can very much do!
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