Just this summer the emergency contraception known as Plan B One Step was approved to sell off the shelf to anyone who needs it, regardless of your age. Now the "morning after" pill just got cheaper and easier to buy. The FDA is now allowing the generic version of Plan B to be sold without proof of age as well -- at about half the price of the original. There is a catch: The box reads that the pill is for women age 17 and older. However, that's a guideline. It's still legal for girls under 17 to buy generic Plan B.
Plan B is now less expensive and more accessible -- but you still need to be careful about how you take it. Here's what women should know about this medication before you try it.
Here's how Plan B works: One pill, a single dose, delivers 1.5 milligrams of levonorgestrel. That's the same thing you get in the birth control pill, but at a much lower level. This dose will either prevent or delay ovulation, or it will interfere with fertilization. Contrary to popular myth, it's not supposed to cause a miscarriage or abortion -- that's RU486. If you're already pregnant, Plan B will most likely be of no use to you (although it's possible that Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting).
For maximum effectiveness (95 percent), take the pill within 24 hours of having sex. If you miss that window, taking it within 72 hours is still 89 percent effective. For this reason, some women say they will buy Plan B preemptively, just in case. But keep in mind, drugs lose their effectiveness over time. Don't expect to use that one Plan B pill five years from now.
Plan B is safe for women, but you may experience the following temporary side-effects, according to the manufacturer.
- Menstrual changes
- Lower stomach (abdominal) pain
- Breast pain
You shouldn't take it as your "regular" contraception because it's not effective when used that way. You shouldn't take it if you think you may be pregnant, or if you have any other problems with your cycle or bleeding.
And that's basically it, in a nutshell. If I had to take Plan B for whatever reason (I'm very careful about my birth control, but hypothetically speaking), I'd probably call in sick that day just in case the side effects hit me hard.
Do you think it's a good thing Plan B is now easier to buy?
Image via Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Corbis