Why Plan B?
Plan B is a form of emergency contraception. It's intended for use among women who forget to use a contraceptive during intercourse, those who have a condom break during sex or for those who are sexually assaulted.
It's meant to prevent an unintended pregnancy. And while the overall rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. has gone down, we know that up to 80 percent of all teen pregnancies are unintended. Teen pregnancy is a tough hill to climb with a wide range of social, emotional and financial ramifications.
What Plan B is not: It is NOT an abortion pill. The “abortion pill” (aka mifepristone or RU-486) actually does just that — it medically ends an early pregnancy already under way.
How does it work?
Plan B is a high dose progestin pill (levonorgestrel) taken in one dose preferably within 24 hours of unprotected sex, though it can be taken up to five days following intercourse. It works by preventing or delaying ovulation, thus preventing egg fertilization. Some studies suggest it could also work by preventing a fertilized egg from embedding into the uterus.
Its classification as an emergency contraceptive highlights the fact that Plan B is a last-minute step to avoid an unintended pregnancy. It cannot stop a pregnancy that is already underway (such as a fertilized egg that has implanted into the uterus).
What are the safety concerns?
The major concerns over Plan B being made readily available to teens without a prescription is that it will become commonplace for teens to forego all other safe sex measures such as condom use and use of a daily oral contraceptive (aka “the pill”).
But we all know that it's called Plan B for a reason. It does not replace Plan A.
Support and educate teens with Plan A
It's quite troublesome that Plan B and its availability to sexually active women has become so entangled in politics. My number one concern is the safety of our teens and that they have easy access to healthcare and preventive medicine. And for our teenagers, this means a concerted effort on the part of parents, pediatricians and educators alike to discuss sex openly and honestly.
They need (and want) to hear from us. No matter how embarrassing they (or you) may consider it. They need for us to impress upon them the importance of respecting their bodies, preventing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, building healthy relationships and protecting their futures.
Do I want Plan B to be their Plan A? No.
But I do want them to have a safe back-up in case of a misstep.