How To Use Plan B

Using Next Choice or Progestin-Only Pills as Emergency Contraception

How to Use Plan B
How to Use Plan B. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Plan B is now Plan B One-Step: In July 2009, the FDA approved Plan B One-Step; this product has completely replaced the old Plan B. Next Choice is now available as a generic product to the old Plan B.

Plan B is a brand of progestin-only pills approved by the U.S. FDA specifically for emergency contraception. Plan B actually consists of two emergency contraceptive pills; each pill contains the progestin hormone levonorgestrel.

Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill) can be taken:

  • In one dose (at the same time)
  • In two doses (12 hours apart)

With other progestin-only pills:

  • The number of pills in a dose varies with the brand of the pill
  • The same brand should be used for both doses

Time Required:

Within 5 days (120) hours of unprotected intercourse.

Here's How to Use Plan B:

  1. Purchase Next Choice (the generic for the old Plan B) Emergency Contraception. Next Choice is available over-the-counter for women 17 and older and can usually be found at your local pharmacy. A prescription for Next Choice is needed for females under the age of 17. It may also be helpful to get this prescription ahead of time or to have Plan B at home, so it can be quickly and easily available should you need it.
  2. Swallow the pills in the first dose as soon as possible. These pills can be taken up to up to 120 hours (or 5 days) after having unprotected sex. However, the sooner they are taken, the more effective they will be.
  1. Swallow the second dose 12 hours after taking the first dose (if taking the pills in two doses). Be sure to use an anti-nausea medication one hour before taking the second dose if you threw up after the first dose.
  2. Do not take any extra pills. Even if the second dose is vomited, as taking more pills probably will not reduce the risk of pregnancy. They can, however, make you sick to the stomach.
  1. The Next Choice pill pack consists of 2 pills. The first white pill is taken and then the second white pill is taken 12 hours later. A woman can also choose to take both white pills together in one dose.
  2. Prescription progestin-only pill packs consist of 2 packs with 20 pills in each. When using Ovrette, first take all 20 yellow pills as the first dose and then take an additional (second pack) of 20 yellow pills 12 hours later. You can also choose to take all 40 yellow pills together in one dose.
  3. After taking these pills, be prepared for possible Plan B side effects. Some side effects that are associated with Progestin-only or Plan B emergency contraception:
    • Your next period may be earlier or later than usual
    • Nausea and vomiting may occur
    • Your flow may be lighter, more spotty, heavier, or the same as usual
    • You may experience headaches
    • Breast tenderness could be common
    • Dizziness is also common
  4. Follow-up procedures after taking Next Choice or Ovrette. You may want to make an appointment with your doctor if:
    • You do not have your period in three weeks.
    • If you have pregnancy symptoms.
    • If you take a home pregnancy test and get a positive result.
  1. Be sure to use an additional method of contraception. Emergency contraception, like the morning-after pill, does not continue to prevent pregnancy during the rest of your menstrual cycle, so make sure to use other birth control methods (like condoms, female condom, Today Sponge or spermicide) in order to prevent an unintended pregnancy.


These directions apply to the old Plan B (2-pill) formulation or for Next Choice.

  1. Although there have been no reports of serious complications among the thousands of females who have used this emergency contraception, mild Plan B side effects could occur but will usually just last a day or two.
  2. Plan B or Ovrette may cause nausea and vomiting. A female can take an anti-nausea medication, like Dramamine or Bonine, one hour before taking the emergency contraceptive pills to reduce the risk of nausea. Just remember to read and follow the precautions on the package insert of these anti-nausea medications as the side effects of these types of medicines may include drowsiness.
  3. Try not to rely on emergency contraception as your main form of birth control. Frequent use of Plan B or progestin-only emergency contraception can cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable.

What You Need:

  • Next Choice (from your local store) if 17 or older.
  • A prescription for Next Choice if under 17.
  • A prescription for Ovrette (regardless of age).
  • Anti-nausea medication - just in case of nausea or vomiting.
  • A clock to know when 12 hours have passed.

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