Morning After Pill

What is the morning-after pill , and how soon would I need to take it?
Plan B One-Step® and Next Choice® are both emergency contraceptives that may prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. [1] They’re more likely to be effective the sooner they’re taken, but their ability to prevent pregnancy also varies depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle when you take them.[2]

How effective is it?
The evidence varies on this. The manufacturers say Plan B One-Step® and Next Choice® can reduce the risk of pregnancy by about 88% [3]; other analysis suggests that the effectiveness may be lower.[4]

How does it work?
When these emergency contraceptives succeed in preventing pregnancy, they seem to do so mainly by stopping ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). Because sperm can live in a woman’s body for several days after she has sex, if she releases an egg during that time, she could get pregnant. Emergency contraceptives like these may also make it less likely that the sperm will reach the egg and fertilize it.[5] The manufacturers indicate that Plan B One-Step® and Next Choice® might also prevent implantation [6], keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine lining. This is still being debated by medical professionals, but so far, the evidence seems to indicate that these pills work before fertilization (mainly by keeping the egg from being released) rather than afterward.[7]

Are Plan B One-Step® and Next Choice® the same as RU-486, the abortion pill?
No. Plan B One-Step® and Next Choice® use a hormone called levonorgestrel mainly to prevent ovulation; RU-486 uses mifepristone and misoprostol to end an existing pregnancy. If you’re already pregnant, it’s too late for emergency contraception.[8] Contact us for for free pregnancy verification or to discuss your options.

Does the morning-after pill protect against sexually transmitted diseases?
No. If you have had sex with someone who may have had other partners or if you have been sexually assaulted, please seek STD testing. Early diagnosis and treatment of some STDs can reduce your risk of experiencing serious health consequences like pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.[9]

What side effects could I experience if I take it?
Side effects of Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice® may include changes in your period, nausea, vomiting, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, dizziness, and breast tenderness. If you vomit within one hour of taking Next Choice® or two hours of taking Plan B One-Step®, contact your healthcare provider to see if you should repeat the dose. If you have severe abdominal pain, seek immediate medical care in case you have an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. [10]

How is the morning-after pill likely to change my menstrual cycle?
Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice® may change your cycle so that your next period is earlier or later than you expected. It may also be lighter or heavier than usual. If your period is over a week late, you may want to take a pregnancy test to rule out the possibility of pregnancy.[11]

Who should avoid taking Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice®? 
These pills are not recommended for routine use or as a replacement for regular methods of birth control. You shouldn’t take them if you are pregnant, are allergic to any of the ingredients or are taking medications that could have a drug reaction. Check with your healthcare provider first. [12]

Is Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice® available at Blue Ridge Women’s Center?
No, they’re not. If you have further questions about Plan B One-Step® or Next Choice®, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Please note that any information provided by Blue Ridge Women’s Center is for reference only and does not constitute professional advice, nor can it replace regular consultation with your physician or other appropriate professionals.

 [1] What is Plan B One-Step? (
[2] See, for example, “Effectiveness of levonorgestrel emergency contraception given before or after ovulation—a pilot study” in Contraception, Feb. 2007 ( article/PIIS0010782406003611/abstract)
[3]What is Plan B One-Step? ( description-plan-b.aspx)
[4] See, for example, “Estimating the effectiveness of emergency contraceptive pills” in Contraception, Apr. 2003 ( PubMed&list_uids=12684144&dopt=Citation)
[5] See summary information in “Plan B and the Politics of Doubt” in JAMA, Oct. 11, 2006 (
[6] How Plan B One-Step Works (; How Next Choice Works (
[7] See summary information in “Plan B and the Politics of Doubt” in JAMA, Oct. 11, 2006, and “Effectiveness of levonorgestrel emergency contraception given before or after ovulation—a pilot study” in Contraception, Feb. 2007 ( PIIS0010782406003611/abstract)
[8] Plan B One-Step Prescribers: What You Need To Know (
[9] Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control ( std/PID/STDFact-PID.htm)
[10] Plan B One-Step Prescribers: Side Effects (
[11] Plan B One-Step Consumers: Safety and Side Effects (
[12]Plan B One-Step Prescribers: Usage Information (; Next Choice prescribing information (