Way back when I was a freshman in college, I remember sitting in a clinic with a friend as she tearfully pleaded for a prescription for emergency contraception. It was the spring of 2004 and emergency contraceptive pills weren’t yet available over-the-counter, even for an 18-year-old adult. At the time, it was a murky topic. My friends and I knew that it was available (somewhere) and that it worked (somehow) but that was it. That was all we really knew. We relied on word of mouth and the opinions and experiences of the other women on our dormitory floor.
“You have to take it immediately afterward,” one girl advised. “No way, it works up to two weeks later, because you have to see a doctor first!” another argued. “I think it causes a….you know,” someone whispered. “No way, it just kills the sperm!” Basically, we were all pretty clueless.
Today, over a decade later, information about Plan B One-Step® is much more readily available. Still, when Teva Women’s Health sponsored a survey conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University to gauge college student’s knowledge and attitudes toward emergency contraception in 2016, they found some students knew few of the basic facts when it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) emergency contraception*. In my opinion, that means it’s time for all of us (college students and adults alike) to get schooled on Plan B One-Step® together!
Plan B One-Step® is the first FDA-approved emergency contraceptive to be available over the counter. It contains levonorgestrel, the same hormone used in many birth control pills—just at a higher dose. It should not be used as regular birth control because it is not as effective. That said, Plan B One-Step® is a backup plan that helps prevent pregnancy when used as directed and taken within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex or birth control failure. The sooner it’s taken, the better it works. If you have any questions about whether you should take Plan B One-Step®, you should ask a healthcare professional and only use it as directed.
When used as directed, Plan B One-Step® helps prevent nearly 7 out of every 8 potential pregnancies. The sooner it’s taken, the better it works. Plan B One-Step® is not an abortion pill. It will not work if you are already pregnant and will not affect an existing pregnancy. It is not intended for routine use because it is not as effective as regular birth control methods. It does not protect you against HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Of course, most of us are more likely to ask a friend than to call a doctor or a pharmacist with an embarrassing question. Just recently, a friend asked me, “How often can I take Plan B One-Step®?” Neither of us wanted to ask the pharmacist in case she judged us for possibly making a mistake more than once! But we still didn’t know the answer!
I realized that we shouldn’t be embarrassed or fear judgment. Neither my friend nor I had done anything wrong. My friend and her boyfriend had used their regular contraceptive and it failed. Life happens! Seeking out emergency contraception is the responsible course of action! My friend knew she was at risk of pregnancy, and she’s not in a place in her life where motherhood makes sense yet. And that’s okay!
So, I swallowed my nerves and fear of judgment and with Plan B One-Step® in hand, I approached the pharmacist. You know what? Instead of being shamed for needing Plan B One-Step®, she reassured us. You can use it when you need it, but it should never replace regular methods of birth control because it is not as effective and you should always use it as directed, she explained. My friend purchased Plan B One-Step® and a bottle of water to take it immediately. I even bought a dose to have in my own medicine cabinet, just in case.
Some women may experience side effects, such as a period that is lighter, heavier, early or late; nausea; lower abdominal pain/cramps; tiredness; headache; dizziness; breast tenderness; and vomiting.
Plan B One-Step® can usually be found in the family planning aisle at many retail stores when you need it—without a prescription or ID, and with no age restriction. I feel empowered, knowing that I already have it should I need it. If you need it, a $10 coupon can be downloaded on www.PlanBOneStep.com to help you save on Plan B One-Step®.
The point is, whatever your reason for choosing emergency contraception, there is nothing to be ashamed of when you’re making informed decisions! I’m proud of my friends (and, in all honesty, myself) for knowing what was best at the time. Seriously, we all need a backup plan at some point in our lives and I’m so happy that Plan B One-Step® is here when we need it!
Learn more about Plan B One-Step® at www.PlanBOneStep.com. Use as directed. I am being compensated for this partner post by Her Campus on behalf of Teva Women’s Health.
*Survey of 3,600 female and male college students ages 18-25 sponsored by Teva Women’s Health, the makers of Plan B One-Step®