Plan B: Uses and Misuses

Shit happens when you party naked

Sex is, in a word, spectacular. Primitive, sensational, and not to mention calorie burning—it is an act that connects two (or more than two) people on a whole new level.

But what about the morning after? It tends to be a dreaded reality check if no protection was used. One of the methods of easing a woman’s fear of pregnancy is Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill or emergency contraception. The pill seems like a miracle drug, but there is a slight hiccup: women are only supposed to use it on a strictly emergency basis, not as a regular form of contraception.

Dorothy*, a junior at Syracuse University, has taken the morning-after pill over ten times. Twice, she had the “oh shit” mornings that follow drunken nights. The other times, she had either skipped a birth control pill or had made the conscious decision to not use a condom before she had gone on birth control.

Dorothy takes a peppermint supplement to reduce the effects of nausea, the main side effect of the pill. Plan B can also cause a change in your period, and Dorothy is no exception. Her period has been as many as five days late. “It was the only time I was actually scared I was pregnant,” she said.

She acknowledges that Plan B should not be used as a regular form of birth control—only for “a lot of unprotected sex.”

Nonetheless, Dorothy admits the pill is great for when you fuck up in fucking. “There were times when I’ve been very irresponsible and I was really glad it was there,” she said. “It wasn’t around during my parents’ generation, when more women had to resort to abortion.”

The number of women who are taking some form of birth control has increased over the years, according to a study published in the Washington Post. It seems as though many college women are resorting to birth control to help eliminate some of the worry and guesswork from their sexual encounters.

Birth control is safer for the body than the constant use of Plan B. A gynecological nurse at the SU Health Center said that Plan B should not be used in place of regular contraception, such as the birth control pill, patch, or ring. The high dose of estrogen the morning-after pill contains is unsafe.

Corinne* took the pill two times during her freshman year at SU. On both occasions, she definitely regretted the sex the next morning, she said. The first time, her partner used a condom, but she was afraid that it broke during sex, “he probably wouldn’t have even noticed.” The second time, her partner didn’t use a condom. “Neither of us had one and it was in the moment, so we just went for it,” Corrine said. “I was on birth control at the time, but I went to buy the pill anyway because I was legitimately scared of getting pregnant.” With the second pill, she felt extremely nauseous and fatigued, and her period came a week early. Interestingly enough, if a woman’s period comes a week later, it can be a sign that she’s pregnant, according to the Plan B Web site.

Actually, Plan B is a progestin-only pill. But more importantly, the Plan B Web site mentions in fine print that women should not use it as form of regular birth control because it becomes less effective over time.

Unfortunately, there are other mixed messages in circulation. One of the nurses at the Planned Parenthood of Syracuse said that a woman can take the pill as many times as she wants without any negative effects to the body.

The pharmacy at the SU Health Center said the pill is most effective when taken within 72 hours; the Planned Parenthood Web site agrees that taking the pill within this timeframe reduces the possibility of pregnancy by 89 percent. “Girls come in every day for the $50 pill,” a technician at the pharmacy said.

Women under the age of 18 cannot buy the pill without parental consent. While the SU Health Center charges $50 for the pill, most students can get it at Planned Parenthood for $25.

Planned Parenthood promotes Plan B with commercials, information cards, and school presentations. “The FDA has approved Plan B for women 18 and over for over-the-counter sale [as of 2006], which means that doctors have recognized that women at risk for unprotected sex should keep a pill on hand,” said a representative at the Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region, Inc. Any woman at risk is any woman who may allow her passions to get the best of her, and therefore is subsequently at risk for unprotected sex.

“I’ve been on birth control for a while now,” Corinne said. “I’m no longer worried, even though I should still be cautious. I am only worried if I miss a pill.”

As amazing as sex is, with or without a condom, save yourself the anxiety. Put on a rubber – it’s really not that difficult.

CultureThe Editors