ParentingScience

Skepchick’s Guide to the Uterus – Breaking News on Broken Condoms

I know you read the last Skepchick’s Guide and you realized, “Oh hey! Condoms are for me!”

So you ran out, bought yourself some latex, non-latex, glow in the dark, french ticklers, flavored and edible condoms; and hooked up with a dreamy geek at your local Skeptics in the Pub last night. You got home, handed him your basket of assorted sheaths, and he said, “Rigorous scientific testing is required!!

Then somewhere between the 3rd and 7th round of testing, you experienced a failure. One of your glow-in-the-darks broke or maybe you mistook an edible for a non-edible. Either way, the mistake was realized after the deed was done.

Now what?

It’s time to turn to Plan B! Now available OTC to all ladies age 17 and older.

What is Plan B?

Plan B, aka “the morning-after pill” is an emergency back up to your normal contraceptive. It is not meant to be used as routine birth control.

Plan B is a treatment course of 2 pills, taken 12 hours apart, the first pill being taken within 72 hours after the oopsy incident.

The pills are similar to birth control pills. They contain a high level of levonorgestrel, a hormone contained in many BC pills, which stops ovulation, or if ovulation has occured, prevents fertiliazation and implantation.

How do you get Plan B?

Even though Plan B is OTC, it isn’t sold on the shelves between the condoms and Airborne. You have to get it from the pharmacist. The official website can tell  you what local pharmacies carry it. But, to be safe, I recommend calling ahead to find out if they have it in stock.

For anyone who is hesitant to walk up to the counter and ask for it, the Plan B website has a card you can print up and hand to your pharmacist. (It currently says that prescription is needed for ages 17 and under, but I expect it will be updated soon to reflect the new law.) So if you’re worried about being harrassed by customers who disagree with your lifestyle choice, or you just want to make it look like you have a secret junior-high style crush on the pharmacist, you can just pass him the note. (“Do you think I’m cute? [yes] [no] If so, I need Plan B.”)

Is Plan B the same as RU486?

Plan B is a hormone pill that works like a birth control pill in that it prevents pregnancy from occurring.

RU486, the abortion pill, is used to terminate early pregnancy.

Plan B will not terminate a pregnancy; it cannot. It can only prevent it from occurring in the first place. If you are already pregnant, Plan B will do nothing to remedy your situation. In fact, if you are pregnant and your hobby is spending money on useless medications, Plan B is perfectly safe to take during pregnancy.

Plan B stops ovulation and prevents fertilization. Essentially, you’re just sending sperm on a snipe hunt – a snipe hunt that will ultimately lead to their demise, but a fools’ errand nonetheless.

How effective is Plan B?

If taken properly, effectiveness is around 89% – slightly more effective (about 5%) than improperly used condoms.

Why can’t Plan B be used as Plan A?

It’s called Plan B for a reason. The first reason is that it has a failure rate of over 10%. Other hormone-based birth controls (to be discussed soon) are much more effective – the best being over 99% effective.

It also comes with some rather unpleasant side effects. One Skepchick blogger said that, after using Plan B, she was so nauseous, she couldn’t get out of bed for 2 days.

The side effects are similar to what you’d normally experience with your period or early pregnancy:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heavier Menstrual Bleeding
  • Lighter Menstrual Bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If vomiting occurs within one hour of taking either pill, it reduces the effectiveness. Call your doctor right away if this happens

Also, having sex again during the same menstrual cycle is contraindicated with Plan B due to the reduction in efficiency.

So, Plan B is a good Plan A if you have sex less than once a month and can commit to never having more than that, aren’t too worried about the failure rate of your birth control, and don’t mind spending a few days sick in bed after each time you have sex.

11% Failure rate when used correctly? How to I know it worked?

Unfortunately, it’s a waiting game. The only way to know that the pills worked is that you get your period. This should happen within 1 week of when you regularly expect it. If it’s over a week late, you need to pee on a stick.

Isn’t this going to start a 17-year-old-slut epidemic?

17-year-olds are going to have sex whether you give them birth control or not. There’s no evidence to indicate that the choices made by teenagers in the heat of the moment, in the back of a van, are in any way influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.Which is exactly the reason Meat Loaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights has absolutely no references to medical interventions in conception. (Also, “And now I’m praying for the FDA”  just doesn’t have the same cheese-factor)

If you’re hoping your kid doesn’t have sex, you’re better off having a discussion with them about it than expecting society to stop them for you. And if you don’t want your kid to get (or get anyone else) pregnant, you better discuss birth control options. Babies don’t just magically not happen.

What happens if a guy takes Plan B?

Though Plan B is 100% effective in preventing pregnancies in men, I don’t recommend taking it.

Please note: Regardless of whether the male partner takes Plan B or not, the female partner will still need to take it to avoid pregnancy.

Pros

  • Effective at preventing pregnancy in an emergency, more effective the sooner it is taken
  • Easy to obtain
  • Easy to take
  • Moderately priced at around $45

Cons

  • Not as effective as primary forms of birth control
  • Time sensitive. First pull must be taken within 72 hours and second pill must be taken 12 hours after the first.
  • Effectiveness decreases over the course of the 72 hours, and is useless if taken after 72 hours.
  • Does not protect against STDs
  • Abstinence is recommended for the remainder of the menstrual cycle
  • Side effects may be unpleasant
  • Side effect of vomiting may result in the pill not working at all

My conclusion: Plan B is an excellent plan b, but a really shitty plan A. Ideally, you don’t want to have to use it. Realistically, you may have to. In the event that it is necessary, don’t procrastinate!

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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45 Comments

  1. Excellent summary. I always found it troublesome that a woman had to call me, her physician, to receive this medication ( by the way, the best named brand name medicine ever – bar none ). The women , often, but not always were young, and though they were not necessarily uncomfortable calling us, they were anxious because of having to wait for us to return their call. Stuff happens. And when condoms break, that stuff can be a tad discombobulating.

    Though I still hold a grudge for the FDA in allowing Tagamet to go OTC ( wayyyy too many drug – drug interactions, I applaud them in allowing Plan B to go OTC, making a time sensitive medication more easily accessable to those in need.

  2. When I first became sexually active I was just using condoms and the inevitable happened and one broke. Aside from convincing me that more reliable birth control would be a good idea I had to go to the local women’s health clinic (wasn’t available over the counter then) and get Plan B.

    Trust me you REALLY don’t want to take it unless you have to, I had just about every unpleasant side effect including vomiting. I had a very distressing and unpleasant few days.

  3. It was still prescription-only when I had to take it once, and they gave me anti-nausea meds to go with it. The doctor actually almost didn’t give to me because of where I was in my cycle, she said I wasn’t likely to get pregnant (which is such bullshit). I think she must have seen the look of “I will throttle you if I have to” on my face, though.

    It wasn’t a fun experience but it was well worth it to not be worried sick for weeks and/or end up knocked up.

  4. I only used Plan B one time, three months ago.

    Even though I had been on oral contraceptives, I unknowingly got pregnant shortly before my wedding (as my friend dubbed it, “invisible shotgun wedding”). After our honeymoon, I knew I was late and peed on the stick.

    Being a first year teacher married to a college student, I knew there was no way we could afford a baby, so we decided to have an abortion. I started a new oral contraceptive right away, of course – however, we both got a little confused about the backup method period and didn’t use a condom a day or two too early. Since the abortion was such a painful and exhausting experience for me, I sure as hell didn’t want to repeat that, so I went to Planned Parenthood (again) to pick up some Plan B.

    Maybe it’s because I’d just had an abortion, but I had absolutely no side effects from the Plan B. I also didn’t get pregnant, again (whew!) and things have been good since.

    Hooray for useful information!

  5. Well,

    If you’re my GF and an accident should occur…

    First you’d torture me with how badly you want my baby and how cute a girl or how handsome a boy would be. Then you’d say something like “Come on, I want a baby!”

    You might even poke your stomach out, blow up your cheeks, and ask me how you’ll look.

    (Still damn cute I thought…)

    Then you’d remind me that you’re “done having kids” and that everything will be just fine.

    I’m always just a little disappointed (VERY little…),

    rod

  6. I have learned to be skeptical whenever someone claims pregnancy due to condom failure, because saying it was due to condom failure sounds better than “I went to a party and got drunk and had a unprotected fuck with my boyfreind/girlfriend/acquaintance/random stranger.”

  7. Not that it does not happens often, just that in some cases people claim condom failure to socially sanitize the event for public consumption. I make no moral judgments either way (I have no basis to) but it’s a nosy opinionated world out there.

  8. I am gladly awaiting the 17 year old slut epidemic. The mental image I have is currently one of a bunch zombies in tube tops and miniskirts and prom dresses staggering around calling out “PENIS! PEEEEENISSSSS”. I hear the only way to defeat them is to take away their car keys.

  9. okay i have given up on my fear of posting my email address online and i know this is off-topic . But @ moltenhotmagma

    DUDE ! Before I start spouting off about the unfeasibilty of “shed nukes”.

    I would like an Engineers Input.

    So…[email protected]

    Oh BTW I am kinda loaded tonight also listening to a nasty german hair metal band called Accept

    Oh your God i miss the eighties

    shaun

  10. I used Plan B once. Thankfully I’ve never had a problem with hormonal birth control (and in fact, it makes my periods almost non-existant woooo), so I had no problems. No cramping, no spotting, nothing. AND NO BABIES YAY!

    I still have a box *just in case*. When that expires (2010?) I’ll buy another one.

    It’s a good thing to have around when you don’t want babies.

    AND I AM SUPER GLAD ABOUT ALL THIS YAYNESS.

  11. @Noadi: Huh, I had no side effects! I think it depends on the person and how they react to hormonal birth control in general. I was expecting some cramping or spotting *at least* but I got … nothin’.

    I count myself lucky!

  12. @Finch: Um, the reason I took Plan B was because the condom broke. It happens. Generally because it was put on wrong (we had no lube, oops), but it happens. And that thing was COMPLETELY broken, so much so that it was practically non-existant.

    So, to question that and just assume they are lying sluts is pretty horrible.

  13. @Finch:

    I think you mean you “have learned to be cynical whenever someone claims pregnancy due to condom failure”

    Remember that condoms are only 85% effective if not used correctly… and most people DO NOT use them correctly. It’s even harder to use them correctly if you’re drunk

    And they don’t have to break. If you put it on upside down, then flipped it over and put it on, you’re putting your partner at risk for pregnancy.

    And there’s still a 2% risk of pregnancy even when used 100% correctly.

    Besides, even if the mom-to-be got knocked up from a gang-bang with carnies and horse jockeys, it’s really none of your business. skepticism and cynicism aside, it doesn’t matter what the reason is… unless you’re the sperm or egg contributor.

    Perhaps “condom broke” = “fuck off”, but it more than likely means “condom broke”.

    Regardless, YAY emergency contraception!

  14. @marilove: Why does it always have to be “Dirty sluts” I’ve always thought of it more like “Sexy, exciting sluts who I really want to get to know or make friends with because they think like me” I mean if they shower regularly they wouldn’t be dirty.

  15. @Gabrielbrawley: See, I’d be the sexy, exciting slut! *waggles eyebrows*

    I just really, really don’t like slut shaming. “LOL, those women are totes lying, broke condom? They are just all irresponsible and nasty! LIARS!” And somehow, the man in the picture, is not mentioned.

  16. To be fair, Finch didn’t say he didn’t trust the WOMEN telling the story. He said he didn’t trust the story itself.

    He also said he doesn’t judge.

    So, while I agree there is far too much slut shaming that goes on in unplanned pregnancies (Because it’s us manipulating defenseless men into sticking their uncovered cocks into us), I don’t think that’s what Finch was doing here.

  17. @Elyse: True, but it still bothers me that he assumes people are “lying”. It really shouldn’t be any of his business, regardless. (I was talking about Plan B with some ignorant people yesterday, so I’m obviously still raw.)

  18. @Gabrielbrawley: You humor was obvious, no worries. I was remembering a blind date I went on in high school which led to a couch in a dark living room where the young lady asked me if I thought she was a slut. I was floored! What I was thinking was that I was the luckiest and most appreciative oxygen deprived 15 year old on the planet! I remember telling her that if what we were doing said anything, it was saying it about both of us.

  19. @James Fox: A sweet guy friend of mine just asked why every woman he’s ever taken home (or at least a majority) has always said, “I don’t usually do this sort of thing!” or some variation of it. He was confused, poor thing. I had to explain to him that women say such things because they don’t want to be viewed as sluts, and that society doesn’t expect or want women to actually enjoy sex. He still didn’t quite get it, hehe. “But, why?” LOL

  20. I’m glad to hear this finally happened, even I get tired of old men dictating what happens in young women’s uterus’ (uteri?). I hope this is another wedge in the war to get religious ideals out of our beds. (Ideally out of our lives, but that may be just me)

  21. @James Fox: @marilove: Good, the whole social nicieties get away from me. Aspergers and all. But seriously, why is sex bad? I mean, a little care, some condoms, I would rather my wife have sex with another man in a one night stand kind of way than to actually fall in love with another man and leave me. I mean fuck, its just fucking. Why is that bad?

  22. One small correction to the post. When you say:

    or if ovulation has occured, prevents fertiliazation and implantation.

    That’s an anti-choice myth floated to scare women out of taking the pill, by implying that it’s “abortion”. There is no scientific evidence that Plan B interferes with fertilization or implantation in any way. The truth is that if you have already ovulated when you have sex, the egg will probably die before the sperm make it there. Not always, but increasingly the evidence shows that’s mostly true. Sperm takes a couple of days to make it to the fallopian tubes, and eggs just don’t live that long. The evidence demonstrates that women’s bodies expect that fertilization will occurs days after sex. The fallopian tubes even bath sperm in a sugar bath to keep them alive while they’re waiting for ovulation!

    It’s critical that people understand that Plan B only works by suppressing ovulation. Because time is of essence when taking it, and it would be a shame if you hesitated because you wanted to examine your moral beliefs about abortion before committing to it. It works on the same principle as the birth control pill or the condom—don’t let sperm meet egg in the first place.

  23. The Patient Pamphlet on the Plan B site (http://www.go2planb.com/pdf/PatientPamphlet.pdf) says:

    Plan B® works like a birth
    control pill to prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of
    an egg from the ovary. It is possible that Plan B® may also work by
    preventing fertilization of an egg (the uniting of sperm with the egg)
    or by preventing attachment (implantation) to the uterus (womb),
    which usually occurs beginning 7 days after release of an egg
    from the ovary.

    I should have worded it differently… that it MAY prevent implantation.

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