FDA to Decide Status of Morning-After Pill
Agency Nears Decision on Over-the-Counter Sale of Drug Known as 'Plan B'
WebMD News Archive
How Plan B Works
Women who do not want to get pregnant should use plan A first. The most
effective way to avoid pregnancy is not to have sex. The next most effective
way, other than permanent sterilization, is contraception. This means using
barrier contraceptives such as diaphragms or condoms, IUDs, or various forms of
All these forms of contraception prevent a man's sperm from fertilizing a
woman's egg. Depending on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle, emergency
contraception may work the same way. But it is more likely to work after sperm
fertilizes the egg.
Just as a seed isn't considered planted until it's put in fertile ground,
the vast majority of doctors say a baby isn't conceived until a fertile human
egg is implanted in a woman's womb. That happens about seven days after sperm
and egg come together and the resulting pre-embryo travels down the fallopian
tubes to the womb. Plan B keeps the fertile egg from getting planted in the
If Plan B does not work -- if the egg does get planted in the womb -- the
pregnancy will proceed normally, says David M. Plourd, MD, assistant professor
of obstetrics and gynecology at Naval Medical Center, San Diego.
"It is an all-or-none phenomenon: With Plan B, you either don't get
pregnant or you do," Plourd says. "There is no in-between. Ether it
works or it doesn't. If it doesn't work, there are no effects on the pregnancy;
no miscarriage and no birth defects."