The Federal Drug Administration approved the Plan B (Lovonorgestrel, a synthetic progestin) for prescription use in 2009. A second generic form of the Plan B pill was approved in 2012. In July 2009, after years of debate, the Plan B pill was approved for over the counter distribution. This distribution is approved for sale of Plan B to women and men over the age of 17 with proper identification.
According to ABC news September 24, 2012, New York City schools will distribute Plan B to students aged 14 to 18. Parents are given the option to check a box on an informational letter and return it to the school if they don’t want the school to provide Plan B to their child.
Lovonorgestrel (Plan B) is a progestin-only containing emergency contraceptive pill. The progestin inhibits ovulation if it hasn’t occurred and it is able to alter the uterine wall to prohibit implantation of a fertilized egg. Some studies have shown that it also thickens cervical mucus causing the slowing of sperm migration and alters the migration of the sperm, the egg, and the embryo.
Plan B must be taken within 72 hours of the sexual intercourse. The hour factor comes into play so that you are taking it early enough to delay ovulation. There were multiple studies conducted and pooled by the World Health Organization that helped to come up with the 72 hour time frame and using models it was determined that if a female took the Plan B pill after the 96 hour time frame that the pill would be ineffective to inhibit pregnancy.
The Plan B pill is available over the counter at your local pharmacy. At www.planbonestep.com, the pharmaceutical company’s web site, you can even type in the time of the intercourse and they have a time counter for you. You can also perform a pharmacy search and it tells you which of your local pharmacies sell Plan B. On the web site you can also print out a $10 coupon and they have a card that you can print out if you are too shy or uncomfortable asking for it. The cost ranges from $40.00 to $50.00.
The Plan B pill does not protect you from HIV or any sexual transmitted diseases. It only helps to prevent pregnancy. The Plan B does not work if you are already pregnant. It is different than R U 486 which is the “abortion” pill. It will not cause a miscarriage.
In multiple studies it is estimated that it has a 79 to 84% success rate. Of 1,198 women in one study they did have 16 pregnancies, and a second study reported 20 pregnancies out of 1,183 women. These numbers are difficult to obtain because you are trying to protect from something, such as administering a vaccine, you don’t know how many would have become pregnant had they not taken the pill. The expected pregnancy rate would have been 8 percent for these studies and with Plan B the pregnancy rate was 1%.
According to multiple sources, if you take the Plan B pill and you do end up pregnant, there is no cause for concern about the birth defects. One study of 332 pregnant women who had used Lovonorgestrel emergency contraception in the conception cycle found no increased risk of birth defects. Studies that have examined women who inadvertently took oral contraceptives including high dose formulas without knowing they were pregnant have found no increased risk of birth defects. The FDA actually removed warnings about adverse effects of combined oral contraceptives on the fetus from the package inserts years ago.
Side effects include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. These usually don’t occur for more than a few days after taking the Plan B pill and they usually resolve within 24 hours. Approximately 50% of the women who have taken the Plan B have experienced nausea and 20% have had vomiting. If you take the pill and vomit within two hours a second dose needs to be taken. It is suggested to take the pill with food.
It is not expected that a woman who has taken Plan B to experience spotting. It is quite common for women to experience a longer bleeding cycle with their next menstrual cycle and to have heavier bleeding than usual. It doesn’t indicate that you were pregnant or not if you have heavier bleeding. The bleeding is from the ingestion of the Lovonorgestrel not from a pregnancy since a pregnancy has been prevented by delaying ovulation, changes in the uterine lining, and changes in the cervical mucus.
There have been no deaths or serious complications associated with the use of Lovonorgestrel. According to the U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use (US MEC), there are no situations in which the risks of using Lovonorgestrel outweigh the benefits. The US MEC notes specifically that women with previous ectopic pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, migraines, and liver disease and women who are breast feeding may use Plan B. Plan B is considered safe for women who are normally cautioned against using combined oral contraceptives. This includes women who have a history of blood clots and a history of stroke.
There is not data available about the effects of repeated use of Plan B frequently over a period of time. According to the Task Force on Post Ovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation, due to the experiences with long term high dose oral contraceptives, the occurrence of serious harm from at least moderately repeated use is low.