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Birth Control Health Center

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Doctors Not Telling Women About Plan B

Emergency Contraception: If Women Don't Ask, Doctors Don't Tell

Plan B 'Special' on Birth Control Menu continued...

On the menu of contraceptive options doctors offer to women, Plourd says Plan B is like an off-the-menu special.

"A woman has a menu of contraception options," Plourd says. "It is my job, as the 'waiter,' to help her understand what is on that menu -- and to tell her that emergency contraception is one of the best things we have, but it is not on the menu. It is my job not to tell her what to order, but to tell her about what we have to offer."

Plourd says he tells his patients about emergency contraception during their annual checkups. He wants all his sexually active patients who do not want to get pregnant to keep Plan B on hand, just in case.

"Emergency contraception is like a fire extinguisher. If your house catches fire, this is not the time to go out and buy one," he says. "And if you have a contraceptive failure or, God forbid, you are involved in a nonconsensual sexual act, there is Plan B."

Many women, Kavanaugh says, confuse Plan B with the abortion pill RU-486 (Mifeprex). Plan B does not cause abortions. When it does not work, a woman has a normal pregnancy. When it does work -- which, according to Plourd, is 75% of the time -- it either prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg or prevents the fertilized egg from implanting into the womb and becoming a fetus.

Although Plan B is a brand name, it really is plan B. It's less effective than other forms of contraception used before intercourse.

Plan B is more likely to work the sooner after intercourse it is taken. That's why Plourd wants every woman who isn't ready to be pregnant to have it on hand. Kavanaugh says this is particularly important for sexually active women under age 18.

"For those under 18 who still need a prescription, it is very much in their interest to get it in advance so they don't waste time going through the prescription process when they need emergency contraception," she says.

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