Plan B is a pill to be taken within 72 hours following intercourse to prevent a pregnancy. All material we researched suggest it should not be used as regular contraception. As of 2008, Canada became the 5th country in the world to approve of this pill being over the counter (Eggertson, 2008). Therefore, it is important for those who counsel women about preventing pregnancy to be aware of this drug as it is so easily accessible. Below will outline how the pill works, its effectiveness, side effects and concerns or cautions with the pill.
How the Pill works
Plan B's (2019) website states that it works in three ways: temporarily stops the release of an egg from an ovary, prevents fertilization and prevents a fertilized egg from implanting to the uterus wall. Health Link BC (2019) website adds that this pill also makes the fallopian tubes less likely to move an egg to the uterus and thins the lining of the uterus or endometrium so if there is a fertilized egg it cannot implant on the uterine wall. The pill uses a hormone called levonorgestrel. This same hormone is used in other birth control pills, but at a higher dosage (Plan B, 2018). It is a progestin hormone, which is a synthetic version of progesterone (Health Link BC, 2019).
Campbell, Busby, and Steyer (2008) conducted a survey with women visiting a family physician on their views on emergency contraception. They found that majority of the women did not know the pill could prevent implantation (Campbell, Busby, & Steyer, 2008). Informed consent is important before taking any medication. This study shows that many women may not be getting the education they need to make an informed decision (Campbell, Busby, & Steyer, 2008).
Plan B Effectiveness
Effectiveness for the Plan B pill is determined by the ability to stop an egg from being fertilized, or has made the uterus not allow the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. Planned Parenthood's (2019) website states the pill is less effective for women who have a higher BMI. Peel Region Public Health (2016) website clarifies this by stating that the pill will not be effective for women over 176 pounds and will be less effective for women between 165-176 pounds. Eggertson (2014) states that the labels in Canada for the Plan B pill did not reveal the effectiveness or lack thereof for those 165 Ibs. or more in 2014. Peel Region Public Health, (2016) a health district in Ontario, Canada also stated on their website that the pill is 95% effective taken within 24 hours after intercourse, 85% effective if consumed within 25-48 hours after intercourse and 58% effective taken 49-72 hours after intercourse. Women need to be educated on what the effectiveness is measuring and how effective this medication is.
Planned Parenthood's (2019) website states that side effects are not common with this pill. Peel Region Public Health (2016) specifically states that only 6% of those who take the pill will vomit as a side effect. The effectiveness of the pill is quick. For example, if someone vomited more than 1.5 hours after taking the pill they do not need a replacement because it is already circulating in the body (Peel Region Public Health, 2016). This pill is reported to not cause infertility in the future and if the embryo has already implanted on the uterus wall this pill will not harm the embryo (Peel Region Public Health, 2016).
Concerns or Cautions with the pill
Plan B's (2018) website recommends not taking the pill if pregnant (the website defines pregnancy as the fertilized egg attached to the uterine wall) because it will not be effective in ending a pregnancy or preventing one from happening. P.J. Riga (2014) suggests that Plan B is an abortifacient (causing an abortion) as there is the potential of the pill eliminating a fertilized egg that has not yet implanted and has the potential for encouraging promiscuity by some thinking they do not have to take responsibility for actions.
Campbell, J.W., Busby S.C., and Steyer, T.E. (2008). Attitudes and beliefs about emergency contraception among patients at academic family medicine clinics. Annals of Family Medicine, 6(1), 523-S27.
Eggertson, L. (2014). Plan B emergency contraceptive may be ineffective for heavier women. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(1), E21-E22.
Eggertson, L. (2008). Plan B comes out from behind the counter. Canadian Medical Association Journal,
Health Link BC. (2019). Emergency contraception. Retrieved from: topics/tb1838
Peel Region Public Health. (2016). Emergency contraceptive pill. Retrieved from: https://www.peelregion.ca/health/sexuality/birth-control/methods-emerg-pill.htm
Plan B. (2018). How it works and FAQ. Retrieved from: http://planb.ca/
Planned Parenthood. (2019). What's the Plan B morning after pill? Retrieved from: morning-after-pill
Riga, P.J. (2014). Plan B morning after pill. The Linacre Quarterly, 81(2), 101-102.