What You Need to Know About Taking the Plan B Pill — Even When It's Too Late

In case your regular birth control method failed (ripped condom), you forgot to take a pill, or you had unprotected sex, it's wise to look into emergency contraception rather than taking your chances. Plan B One-Step, the most popularly used morning-after pill, is a safe, single-use backup plan that helps prevent pregnancy. The amazing part is that it's available to women of all ages without a prescription or ID. See everything you need to know about taking Plan B below.

How Soon You Should Take Plan B

Although emergency contraception is known as the "morning-after pill," you don't necessarily have to take it the morning after. As long as you take it within 72 hours (or three days) after unprotected sex or birth control failure, you should be protected. However, the sooner you take it, the more effective it is!

How It Works

The Plan B One-Step pill contains levonorgestrel — the same hormone that many birth control pills contain — but at a higher dose. According to its website, Plan B may prevent fertilization of an egg or attachment to the uterus, but it mainly works by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary.

How to Take It

You take the single pill by mouth.

Possible Side Effects

Since you are getting a boost of hormones, your body may react accordingly. You may experience side effects including nausea, lower abdominal cramps, vomiting (warning: if you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, it may not work), fatigue, a change in your period (lighter, heavier, early, or late), dizziness, or breast tenderness. But generally, Plan B is safe to take.

How Effective It Is

According to its website, "about 7 out of 8 women who would have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking Plan B One-Step." Remember: in order for it to work, you must take the pill orally within 72 hours.

Other Things to Note About Plan B One-Step

  • It does not protect you against STIs or HIV/AIDS.
  • It is not an abortion pill! It will not work if you're already pregnant, nor will it affect an existing pregnancy.
  • It's not as effective as regular birth control methods, so it should not be used as a replacement.
  • You can and should resume your regular birth control control method ASAP.
  • It only protects you once per menstrual cycle.

For more information about Plan B One-Step, visit its website or ask your healthcare professional.