How is Plan B (birth control) harmful?
“It's hormones you take every day, they can make you feel and act very different from how you would feel normally.
If you don't have insurance, it is not cheap.”
“I don't use the pill because I had horrible side effects the last time I tried it. Had terrible mood swings, hair loss, libido loss, and ended up having suicidal thoughts.”
“The main reason you see so many posts in here about it is because people are looking for advice. The large majority of women on the pill never have any issues, don't get pregnant and thus aren't going to come into a subreddit asking people what to do. I mean, what would be the point? A post that says "Hi I'm on the pill and never had any issues, that's all I have to say"? I've been a monophasic pill for five years and sexually active for 3. Never had a pregnancy scare, never had any major side effects. Neither have my numerous girlfriends on it or 95% of women. However, the 5% that do get pregnant (or the women who have side effects, I'm not sure the numbers on that) are of course going to be understandably concerned and reach out for help.
So, from there to answer your questions:
1) A huge number of girls and women do take the pill or use another form of hormonal contraception (patch, NuvaRing, implant, Mirena). I believe it is the most popular form of contraception, after condoms. A minor percentage of women - like those in this thread - do suffer severe reactions to hormones, and thankfully there are other options for them, such as the Paragard (non-hormonal IUD, which also can have side effects of a different kind). The pill and other hormonal contraceptives do have wonderful benefits for others though - such as reducing cramps, acne, and making periods light and regular. Mirena, the progesterone-only uterine device, has been shown to be helpful for women who suffer the immense pain of endometriosis as well.
2) As I said, most women and men for that matter do trust the pill. It works most of the time. However, if people are using combination methods like the pill + condom, and the condom breaks, it's easy to get paranoid and scared. Pregnancy is a big deal! The "what if" thoughts start flowing - what if I didn't take it at the right time, what if I forgot one day last month, etc. etc. Is plan B necessary in those cases? Probably not, but people are scared and looking for advice. Personally though, I think the biggest reason for fear is basic lack of education about hormonal contraception. Most people, even with good sex ed, do not know how hormonal contraceptives work. It's just a pill you're supposed to trust. Knowing the mechanism of it and why it makes it so unlikely to get pregnant would make a lot less people afraid, I think. Hell, just look at the US government representatives from the last year. However a healthy dose of caution is not necessarily a bad thing, since even with a small risk the consequence is a human being.”
Fact: To prevent pregnancy, you can take emergency birth control pills up to 72 hours (three days!) after unprotected sex.Emergency birth control pills may still work up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. You may have heard of emergency birth control pills as emergency contraception, Plan B®. or 'morning-after pills.' These are all terms for the same medication. If used quickly and correctly, emergency birth control pills can lower your chance of getting pregnant by 89%!
Myth: Emergency birth control pills cause abortion.
Fact: Emergency birth control pills are not the same as the abortion pill and do not cause abortion. Emergency birth control pills will not affect an existing pregnancy. Important medical associations agree that you are not pregnant until a fertilized egg implants itself in the wall of your uterus. Emergency birth control pills cannot cause abortion because they prevent fertilization and have no effect on an implanted egg.
Emergency birth control pills also have no effect on an embryo or fetus. If you are already pregnant, taking emergency birth control pills will not harm your pregnancy or cause birth defects.
Emergency birth control pills delay ovulation and may keep an egg from being fertilized. It’s possible, though unproven, that emergency birth control pills could also prevent the egg from implanting (that is, stop it from attaching to the wall of the uterus).
Emergency birth control pills are the same medicine as regular birth control pills; they are made of the hormone progestin and, sometimes, estrogen. The ‘abortion pill” (RU 486 or mifepristone) is a different drug. It contains a different hormone, antiprogesterone, as well as with other steroidal hormones.
Myth: Emergency birth control pills are unsafe.
Fact: Emergency birth control pills are very safe. Emergency birth control pills work exactly the same as regular birth control pills. In fact, emergency birth control pills are the same medication as many birth control pills, used in a specific way. Birth control pills are one of the best-studied and safest drugs available today. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Yuzpe regimen and Plan B®. Both methods work well and are safe.
You can get Plan B® in pharmacies and many family planning clinics. Other clinics and pharmacies also fill prescriptions for emergency birth control pills by using repackaged birth control pills.
Some women experience mild side effects—like nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue—for a short period of time after taking emergency birth control pills. Even women who cannot take regular birth control pills for medical reasons can use emergency birth control pills. For more information, check with your health care provider.
- Like regular birth control pills, emergency birth control pills cause no increased risk of ectopic pregnancy or of birth defects.
- Emergency birth control pills do not interact negatively with other drugs, and you can’t become addicted to them.
- You should not take emergency birth control pills if you are pregnant. Only because they won’t work if you’re already pregnant! Emergency birth control pills will not harm the embryo or fetus.
Myth: Emergency birth control pills are not safe for young women.
Fact: Young women have been using birth control pills as emergency contraception since the 1960s. No studies of emergency birth control pills have included women younger than 15. But no one has reported harmful effects on young women. In fact, major medical associations, such as the Society for Adolescent Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics, support easier access to emergency birth control pills because they are entirely safe for teenage and adult women. Emergency birth control pills are safer than aspirin.
Myth: I need a parent's permission to get emergency birth control pills.
Fact: Most young women don't need a parent's permission to get emergency birth control pills.In fact, teens age 16 and older in South Carolina have the right to get emergency birth control pills confidentially without asking or telling their parents. Plus, Plan B® is now available without a prescription to women ages 18 and over. Ask your pharmacist. If you are under 18, you will still need a prescription – ask your doctor.
Myth: Emergency birth control pills can affect my ability to have a baby in the future.
Fact: Neither birth control pills nor emergency birth control pills affect your ability to get pregnant later. Emergency birth control pills are higher doses of regular birth control pills. After taking emergency birth control pills, you could have heavier or lighter bleeding. You might get your period sooner or later than usual. Your period might be longer or shorter. But after a month or so, your menstrual cycle should return to normal.
If your period is more than a week late, you should visit your regular health care provider, as you might be pregnant. If you are pregnant, remember that having taken emergency birth control pills will not affect your pregnancy or cause birth defects.
Myth: Using emergency birth control pills more than once is dangerous.
Fact: Emergency birth control pills contain the same hormones as regular birth control (oral contraceptives) and are similar to those your body produces. While no one has specifically studied the effects of using emergency birth control pills over and over (mostly because it occurs so rarely), you can use regular birth control pills safely for extended periods of time without any negative effects. Your health care provider should be willing to prescribe emergency birth control pills for you when you need them, no matter whether or how often you've needed them before.
Myth: If I take emergency birth control pills, I can’t get pregnant until my next period.
Fact: Emergency birth control pills will only keep you from getting pregnant when they are taken within the prescribed time AFTER unprotected sex. If you have unprotected sex after taking emergency birth control pills, you can get pregnant. To prevent this, be sure you use a condom when having sex after taking emergency birth control pills. Then return to your regular form of birth control when your next cycle begins. If you don’t already have one, choose and use a regular form of protection.
Myth: Emergency birth control pills protect me against diseases.
Fact: Neither emergency birth control pills or regular birth control pills protect againstsexually transmitted infections, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Emergency birth control pills and regular oral contraceptives can help keep you from getting pregnant, but will do nothing to protect you against sexually transmitted infections. To keep from getting an infection, you and your partner should use condoms at every act of vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Myth: Doctors know all about emergency birth control pills and discuss them with their patients.
Fact: Few doctors know about and discuss emergency birth control pills with their patients.Only one in five obstetricians and gynecologists talks about emergency birth control pills with patients on a regular basis. Among all health care professionals, only one in ten discusses emergency birth control pills. In fact, some doctors wrongly believe that emergency birth control pills cause abortion.
Many young people go to pediatricians. Pediatricians are often misinformed about or entirely unaware of emergency birth control pills.
In short, your doctor may know very little about emergency birth control pills and may not offer it to you as an option. So, don't wait for the doctor to suggest emergency birth control pills; ask for a prescription for emergency birth control pills so you have them on hand in case of emergency.
Myth: Doctors and hospitals make emergency birth control pills available to all rape victims.
Fact: Many hospitals do not offer emergency birth control pills to sexual assault survivors. In South Carolina, if you tell someone at the emergency room that you have been raped, the law says they must provide emergency birth control pills upon request. Contact your local rape crisis center for more information.
Myth: Emergency birth control pills are not important for teens.
Fact: Teens need emergency birth control pills at least as much as adult women. If you are having sex, you could experience pregnancy. In the United States each year, about 750,000 to 850,000 young women become pregnant; 85% of these pregnancies are unintended. Many teenage women become pregnant after their birth control failed or they had unprotected sex. Many young women also experiencesexual assault or dating violence. Surveys show that one in five women has been forced or coerced into sex, and most report that the rape occurred while they were teenagers.
Need emergency birth control pills? Click here to learn how to get them—when you need them, or better yet, before you need them!
Myth: I can't get emergency birth control pills until it is an emergency.
Fact: You can ask your health care provider for a prescription for emergency birth control pills at any time. Having a prescription or a supply of emergency birth control pills on hand before you need them will mean that you can take the pills as soon as possible when you need them. In South Carolina, you may have a prescription filled for up to two years after you received it. Women 18 and over are now able to get Plan B® from a pharmacist without a prescription whenever they ask for it – in an emergency, or in advance.
Myth: Making emergency birth control pills available will encourage people to take sexual risks or not use regular birth control.
Fact: Studies prove that most emergency birth control pills users are on regular birth control, but accidents happen. Among the few who weren't using birth control consistently or at all, one study showed that 90 percent began using a regular method of birth control after they used emergency birth control pills in an emergency.
After overcoming something life-threatening, I'm constantly in fear something can and will go wrong again. Every time I feel a twinge in my leg, I get scared. Every time I feel a shortness of breath, my heart races.
I started taking birth control pills in January 2011. By May of that year, my doctor discovered that a blood clot had developed in my right leg and spread to my lungs.
The most common type of clot is a deep vein thrombosis, a clot in a vein usually in the leg. It becomes fatal when it spreads to other parts of the body such as the lungs, a condition known as a pulmonary embolism.
The pain in my hip, the swelling of my entire right leg and the breathing difficulty I experienced should've scared me enough to check it out. But it wasn't until my mother dragged me into the doctor four months later that I learned something was really wrong.
"It's just some pain in my hip," I told the nurse. "I probably just pulled a muscle or something."
When my doctor agreed to see me immediately without an appointment, I should have known it was a bigger deal. The way nurse after nurse came in to talk to me should have tipped me off that I had cause for concern.
But why would I worry? I had been perfectly healthy for 19 years. With the exception of one broken bone and a case of strep throat, sickness and injury were not a part of my past. I had no reason to worry because I had no idea what kind of damage birth control could cause.
The clot took only four months to develop. Recovery was a seven-month process of ER trips, doctor visits three to four times a week and a few blood-thinning medications consisting of shots injected in my abdomen and a daily pill. At this time, I had just returned from school for summer break and was working two jobs and an internship. Going to see the doctor continually for blood tests was a challenge.
Through my research on the topic, I learned that I was not alone. I met two other women with similar stories. Kaitlin Schroeder, 29, from Boulder, Colorado, developed a portal vein thrombosis (the vein that carries blood from the stomach to the liver) as a result of the Nuva Ring, a flexible ring inserted once a month, when she was 22. Jaimie Kuchar, 22, from St. Cloud, Minnesota, also had a DVT in her leg from a three-month estrogen pill, Gilessa. Talking with other women who shared the same experience really sparked my interest in the dangers of birth control.
Studies show that newer birth control pills containing drospirenone, a synthetic version of the female hormone, progesterone, present a higher risk of blood clots than previous forms. According to an FDA report from Oct. 27, 2011, 10 in 10,000 women on the newer drugs will form a blood clot; with the older drugs, the risk is 7 in 10,000.
A more recent FDA report from April 10, 2012 warns of the increased risk for blood clots from birth control pills containing drospirenone. Drospirenone is shown in some epidemiologic studies to have a tripled increased risk for blood clots, even though other studies show no increased chance. Birth control pills with this hormone include but are not limited to Yasmin, Ocella, Yaz and Zarah.
Before prescribing birth control, doctors inform patients of the potential risks including minor side effects like cramping and irregular menstruation, as well as more serious ones like blood clots. I was aware of these when I started using the Pill, but with the chances seeming so unlikely that it would happen to me, I didn't give it a second thought.
Jaimie, Kaitlin and I are lucky to have caught ours early enough. About half of people who have blood clots show no symptoms, making it much harder to diagnose, and therefore, possibly fatal. Even those who survive might have life-long health problems. Kaitlin must take blood thinners indefinitely. Jaimie suffered from a blood infection. I became severely anemic and had to go to the ER, where they considered giving me a blood transfusion.
After my blood clot was resolved, I tried the Depo-Provera three-month shot because it contains a different hormone than the pill. I didn't suffer from any physical problems, but I couldn't handle the paranoia and stopped the shot after only three injections.
As daunting as the paranoia can be, I wasn't concerned enough at the beginning. I'm fortunate that my parents forced me to go to the doctor when I thought I had just pulled a muscle.
I can already imagine myself as a mother in the future, arguing with my teenage daughter who wants to use birth control. I know it has its benefits, which is why I tried another form, and it has worked out fine for all my friends. Even my mother was on birth control for years. Birth control has helped lots of women in many ways. But looking back at my hospital trips, ER visits, worried phone calls from my mother and the simple struggle of walking up the stairs, I will always be more cautious and remain educated about the possible dangers of birth control.