It is possible to take Plan B as many times as necessary to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
Typically, it is only necessary to take one dose of Plan B each time a person has sex without contraception. In some instances, however, an individual may need to take more than one dose.
Plan B, or the morning-after pill, is a form of emergency contraception. According to Planned Parenthood, emergency contraceptive pills can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75–89%, as long as a person takes it within 3 days of having sex.
In this article, we explain how and when to take Plan B, outline potential risks and side effects, and list other forms of contraception.
There is no limit to the number of times an individual can take Plan B, or the emergency contraceptive pill. People can take it as often as necessary to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
There are no significant health risks associated with the use of Plan B. However, doctors and other health professionals do not recommend it as a regular form of birth control because it is less effective than other methods.
Unlike regular birth control pills that contain progestin and estrogen, Plan B only contains progestin. According to American Family Physician, progestin-only birth control pills may result in fewer side effects and may be a safer option for some people.
Another reason that doctors do not recommend frequent use of Plan B is that it may cause menstrual periods to become irregular or cause spotting between periods.
When a person takes Plan B correctly, and within 3 days of having sex without using contraception, it can educe the chance of pregnancy by up to 89%.
It is possible to take Plan B up to 5 days after having sex, but it becomes less effective the longer a person waits.
A 2019 review suggests that those who use morning-after pills as a regular form of contraception have a chance of becoming pregnant within 12 months.
Another form of birth control, such as the copper IUD (intrauterine device) (IUD), is an effective form of emergency contraception.
When a healthcare professional inserts it within 5 days after a person has had sex without using contraception, it is more than 99.9% effective. This makes it the most effective form of emergency contraception.
Typically, a person only needs to take one dose of Plan B following each episode of sex without contraception. Taking additional doses does not make the emergency contraceptive pill more effective.
The exception to this is if the person vomits shortly after taking the pill. This means that the pill does not have time to enter the person’s system and the hormones cannot take effect to prevent pregnancy.
In this case, it is necessary to take another dose of Plan B.
If a person has sex without contraception a couple of days after taking Plan B, they should also take another dose to reduce the risk of pregnancy after this instance of intercourse.
Plan B and other forms of emergency contraception are relatively low-risk. They have been in use for over 30 years.
Emergency contraceptive pills do not carry the same risks as taking other forms of hormonal birth control on a continuous basis.
This is because the hormones remain in a person’s system for a much shorter period than they do when taking ongoing birth control.
The primary risk associated with using Plan B is an unplanned pregnancy since it is less effective than other forms of birth control. Another risk is the risk of irregular periods, especially if a person takes plan B regularly.
It is also an expensive form of birth control. Other methods are likely more cost-effective.
Short-term side effects that may result from emergency contraceptive pill usage include:
- a headache
- irregular bleeding between periods
- stomach cramps
- tender breasts
These side effects should only last a few days, although a person’s period may be up to 7 days late. If the period does not arrive after a week, it is best to take a pregnancy test.
There are no long-term risks of morning-after pill use. The pills also do not affect a person’s future fertility.
Other forms of contraception are more reliable than Plan B at preventing pregnancy. People should speak to their doctor about the best form for their needs.
Birth control implant
The birth control implant (Nexplanon, Implanon) is a small, thin rod that a healthcare professional inserts into the arm.
It protects against pregnancy for up to 5 years. It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
An IUD is a tiny device that a healthcare professional inserts into the uterus. There are 2 types of IUD: hormonal (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, Skyla) and copper (Paragard).
IUDs are very effective at preventing pregnancy, but they do not protect against STIs.
Birth control shot
The Depo-Provera shot is an injection that a person receives every 3 months to prevent pregnancy. It releases the hormone progestin to prevent ovulation. It is important to get the shot on time to avoid pregnancy.
Depo-Provera does not protect against STIs.
Birth control ring
The NuvaRing birth control ring is a small, flexible ring that sits inside the vagina. It releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.
As with other forms of hormonal birth control, the NuvaRing does not protect against STIs.
Birth control patch
Individuals can wear a birth control patch on certain parts of the body, such as the stomach, arm, or back. The patch releases the hormones estrogen and progestin through the skin to prevent pregnancy.
The patch does not protect against STIs.
Birth control pill
It is necessary to take 1 pill each day. Some types of pills include a 7-day break after 21 days to allow for a menstrual period. It is important to take the pill on time to prevent pregnancy.
Birth control pills do not protect against STIs.
A condom is a barrier method of contraception. It is a thin, stretchy pouch that a person wears on their penis during sex. Condoms are widely available and effective when used correctly.
Latex and plastic condoms protect against pregnancy and STIs. Lambskin condoms protect against pregnancy, but not STIs.
Other forms of birth control include:
- birth control sponge
- cervical cap
- family planning method
- permanent methods of birth control, such as tubal ligation and vasectomy
A person can take Plan B emergency contraception as often as necessary to prevent pregnancy. It does not carry any long-term risks, and it will not affect a person’s future fertility.
Short-term side effects are common and include nausea, vomiting, and spotting between periods.
The most significant risk associated with morning-after pill use is the chance of an unwanted pregnancy. This is because it is less reliable than other forms of contraception.
People who wish to prevent pregnancy should discuss other contraceptive options with a doctor.