Plan B for sale at a pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, March 12, 2020. (Sarah Mirk via Flickr)
Plan B for sale at a pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, March 12, 2020.

Sarah Mirk via Flickr

Plan B: What you should know

March 3, 2023

Emergency contraceptives are a hot-button topic in the post-Roe v. Wade world. One of the most commonly talked about emergency contraceptives is Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill. 

There are many who are not informed about what Plan B is and how it works. Spreading awareness and information about these contraception options allows those who are sexually active to be equipped with the information they need to protect themselves and others. 

What is Plan B?


Plan B is a common brand name for the levonorgestrel pill. For familiarity’s sake, levonorgestrel will be referred to as Plan B for the majority of this article. Plan B is considered an emergency contraceptive pill to be used by those who have engaged in unprotected sex. 

It is not meant to be used as a regular form of contraceptive. Condoms are always the best form of protection during sex because not only do they protect against pregnancy, but condoms also protect against STIs, which Plan B does not. 

Who is it for? When should you take it?

Plan B is for people who have had unprotected sex within a 72-hour time frame. Plan B should be taken by the partner at risk for getting pregnant. Plan B can be purchased over the counter and is easily accessible to the general public and may reduce your likelihood of becoming pregnant by 75-89%. 

Plan B is generally less effective for those who weigh over 165 lbs. Emergency contraceptives like Ella (made with ulipristal acetate) can be taken five days after unprotected sex and have an 85% chance of effectiveness if taken within this time frame. Ella is considered to be the better form of after-morning contraception. However, it is less effective for those who have a BMI over 35. To get Ella, you need to get a prescription from your doctor, either at your doctor’s office or at Planned Parenthood. 

Does Plan B cause abortions?

No. The point of Plan B is to delay or stop ovulation before the egg can be fertilized. If there is no fertilization or implantation into the uterus, then there can be no abortions. It’s the reason Plan B is categorized as an emergency contraceptive and not an abortion pill. Plan B won’t work for someone who is already pregnant. 


What are the possible side effects?

Plan B is quite safe and often doesn’t lead the user to experience many side effects. If you do have any side effects, they are likely to manifest as lightheadedness, nausea, upset stomach or tender breasts. Sometimes the person taking the pill may throw up. If you throw up within the first two hours of taking Plan B, you will have to take it again. Sometimes the person taking Plan B may have some differences in their next period.

When is it too much?

There really isn’t a “too much” when it comes to taking emergency contraceptives but it isn’t recommended. Emergency contraception pills were not designed to be used in the same fashion as regular contraceptives and are not nearly as effective as regular birth control methods. However, if you follow the directions on the box, you should be safe. It will not lose effectiveness, and it will not harm future fertility. 

What is the shelf-life of Plan B?

The expiration date should be clearly stated on the side of the box, but the shelf life is around 4 years. Taking an expired Plan B pill will be nowhere near as effective as taking one that is not. If you are someone who stockpiles this kind of medicine, please be sure to keep track of the expiration date. 

Where to buy it? 

As mentioned before, Plan B is pretty accessible to the general population, and there are no age or gender restrictions in the U.S. when it comes to buying it. The Plan B brand is what people tend to look for, but there are levonorgestrel generic brands that work the same and are much cheaper than Plan B. You can purchase Plan B at pretty much any pharmacy, including the SIU Health Center. 

Is access to Plan B under threat?

There are lawmakers and government officials who are trying to restrict or ban the usage of Plan B. It boils down to these individuals having a fundamental commitment to misunderstanding how Plan B works and what it does. Some groups are trying to push the idea that Plan B does cause abortions, which, as we have previously discussed, it does not. It is important to be aware of the current conversation around emergency contraceptives and birth control. These are the things that are helping to prevent abortion and keep people safe. 


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