Plan B: Emergency contraception when other forms of birth control go awry

Imagine if, on top of final papers and exams, you had a “contraceptive failure” – the condom broke and you forgot to take your birth control pill before sexual intercourse. You doubt, you fret, you can’t think or eat. “What if I’m pregnant?” is the only thing that crosses your mind.

The emergency contraception pill may be the answer for sexually active women in this type of situation. Commonly known as the “morning-after pill” or Plan B, emergency contraception, which is about 89 percent effective, prevents the egg from being fertilized by the sperm.

“It may interrupt the ovulatory process thus not allowing the egg to mature,” said Susan Haney, associate director of GW’s Student Health Services. “The pill may alter the lining of the uterus making it less receptive to a fertilized egg. It is also thought to decrease sperm function.”

The pill must be taken within 72 hours of the intercourse for it to be effective. It is available at SHS for $40 ($20 for the office visit and $20 for the pill). In order to receive the pill at SHS, women must meet with a clinician.

“We work with students to explain the range of options available given individual circumstances and will prescribe the pill if that is the request,” Haney said.

Plan B’s availability to college students has increased in recent years, as more and more colleges are starting to carry the pill at their respective health services. The pill also became available over the counter in drugstores in 2006 for women who are at least 18 years old. Those younger than 18 still need a prescription.

Despite its increased availability and relative effectiveness, it is important for women to understand that Plan B is not a form of birth control. According to Plan B’s Web site, the pill has long-term risks, such as irregular menstruation, if used frequently.

It is also common to feel nausea or mild abdominal pain after taking Plan B.

Plan B does not protect from sexually transmitted diseases and condoms are still considered the most effective method of protection during sex. But if Plan A doesn’t go as planned, all is not lost. n

If its the middle of the night and you

need Plan B the nearest 24 Hour Pharmacy to campus is located at the CVS at 2240 M St. NW, 202-296-9877.

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