Plan B

Plan B side effects are common but usually fairly mild and self limited, and for most women in need of rescue contraception are well worth using Plan B and tolerating any Plan B side effects they happen to have.  This article will help you understand what you need to know about potential Plan B side effects.

Plan B Side Effects: Plan B One-Step, generic name levonorgestrel, is a single dose of two 0.75 mg tablets used for emergency contraception. It is available without a prescription but in some states may require a prescription for women under 17 years of age. It is more effective the earlier it is taken after exposure, with maximum efficacy when taken less than 72 hours post exposure, with moderate efficacy when taken less than 120 hours after exposure. Estimates of the efficacy of Plan B are a chance or pregnancy of about 0.5 percent if Plan B is taken within 12 hours of sex but by 72 hours the estimated rate of pregnancy may be as high as 4 percent. Considering the chance of pregnancy from a single act of unprotected sex is far from 100 percent, the actual efficacy of Plan B at preventing pregnancy is roughly estimated at >75 percent. Side effects such as nausea and vomiting are very common and it is advised to take a second dose if vomiting occurs within 2 hours after taking the single dose.

Common Plan B Side Effects: Nearly every woman who takes Plan B will experience some side effects given that the reason to take Plan B is to make the endometrial lining, the area of the uterus where a fertilized egg implants to lead to a viable pregnancy, inhospitable and prevent pregnancy from progressing. Plan B users should consider that menstrual irregularity is very common. Other Plan B side effects like nausea and vomiting are also quite common and if a woman vomits within 2 hours of taking plan B many experts recommend taking a second dose. Diarrhea and abdominal pain are other Plan B side effects of the gastrointestinal system. Headache, dizziness, fatigue and breast tenderness or pain are also common Plan B side effects.

Serious Plan B Side Effects: Remarkably no life threatening or really serious Plan B side effects have been reported or are listed on the prescriber’s guidelines by the manufacturer.

Unusual Issues With Plan B: Plan B has raised more controversy than nearly any other product approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sales in the United States. Some pharmacists have been unwilling to dispense Plan B because of religious belief that use of Plan B One-Step is a form of abortion given that it does not prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, but rather prevents implantation of the fertilized egg in the endometrium. In many states laws called “conscious clauses” or “rights of conscious” legislation have been passed to protect pharmacists or physicians who decline to prescribe post-exposure contraception on religious or ethical grounds.

Plan B Cautions and Drug Interactions: The only cautions listed by the manufacturer in the prescriber guidelines for Plan B are known or suspected established pregnancy (i.e. > 120 hours post exposure), undiagnosed vaginal bleeding and hypersensitivity to the drug or its components. Drug interactions are possible but the list of drugs with potential drug interactions is composed primarily of medications infrequently used. See the manufacturer’s prescriber guidelines for a complete list of potential drug interactions but the more commonly used include carbamazepine, barbiturates, the OTC herbal product St. John’s Wort, and topiramate.

Plan B use in Pregnancy and Lactation: Of course Plan B should not be used during a pregnancy more than 120 hours post exposure. It is listed as pregnancy category X, meaning there is positive evidence of fetal damage and that its risks outweigh any potential benefits for use in pregnancy. It’s safety in lactation is unknown.

Unusual Plan B Side Effects: There really are no plan B side effects that are especially unusual or unexpected.  The issue of Plan B side effects really needs to be put into the context of the potential advantages of avoiding an unplanned and undesired pregnancy.  The best way of course to avoid Plan B side effects is to use pre-coital contraception to avoid the need for post coital contraception.  Abstinence is of course an alternative, but in the situation of unprotected intercourse Plan B side effects are usually considered a small price to pay for the reduction in the chances of a pregnancy.

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