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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...

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.

Plan B isn't the only form of emergency contraception. Women may also opt for the Copper T IUD, an intrauterine device that can prevent pregnancy even when implanted five days after intercourse.

Kavanaugh and Bimla Schwarz report their findings in the June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.


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