Emergency Contraceptive – What Women Should Know About Plan B
Many women and the American society in general, have poor understanding of emergency contraceptives. Many are ill-informed about its usage and its availability. But despite the lack of public awareness on this type of contraception, most gynecologists seldom raise such option during consultation, unless their patients ask for it.
A survey of 7,643 women aged 15 to 44 years revealed that most of them had not been informed by their gynecologists about the so-called “morning-after pill,” available under the brand name Plan B. When asked if their doctors had discussed emergency contraceptives, only 3% said yes. This survey was conducted in 2002, when emergency contraceptives were sold only as prescriptive drugs.
Even women who requested Pap test or pelvic exam often did not receive emergency contraception counseling from their physicians. Only 4% were lucky to be informed about emergency contraception.
The same survey nevertheless reported that users of emergency contraceptives were using it sparingly. 73% of the respondents who had tried emergency contraceptives had used it only once. Apparently, the women were using emergency contraceptives under conditions for which the drug is originally intended, and not as a replacement for contraceptives intended for frequent use.
Women who hear about emergency contraception from their doctors are more likely to use it. It is unfortunate that majority of gynecologists do not see the need to raise awareness on emergency contraception. Plan B is shown to be safe in preventing terminations and unwanted pregnancies.
Plan B vs. Standard Contraceptives
Plan B was sold as prescriptive drug until 2006. Calls by contraception advisors and an expert advisory panel to make Plan B available over-the-counter prompted the U.S. government to loosen its prescription policy for Plan B. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) then permitted adults to buy Plan B over-the-counter, but those who are 17-year-old and below need to have a prescription.
Plan B is different from standard contraception. It is less effective than standard contraceptives used before or during a sexual intercourse. A physician normally presents to his patients a list of available contraceptives and treats Plan B as an off-the-menu option. But this should not mean that Plan B is not an important contraceptive. Though Plan B is not intended to substitute for standard contraceptives, a doctor should mention such alternative and the circumstances that warrant its usage.
Women should only consider Plan B as a contraceptive of last resort. Use Plan B if standard contraception malfunctions, or you are involved in a nonconsensual intercourse. Emergency contraception is kept like a fire extinguisher. Those who have Plan B on hand are just anticipating for untoward events that may lead to unsafe sex or unwanted pregnancy.
Plan B is commonly confused with the abortion pill RU-486 (Mifeprex). Plan B is not intended to cause abortion. Women can expect normal pregnancy when Plan B does not work (25% of the time). Plan B works by preventing sperm cells from fertilizing an egg or by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to womb where it will develop into a fetus.
Plan B is more likely to work if it is taken immediately after a sexual intercourse. Thus teenagers or any sexually-active women who do not want to get pregnant should always have Plan B on hand.
Since teenagers need a prescription in order to buy Plan B, they may consider getting a prescription in advance so they can immediately buy Plan B when they need it.
Another type of emergency contraception is Copper T IUD. This intrauterine device works when implanted five days after sexual intercourse.