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How many times can you take Plan B?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Aug 1, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

You can take Plan B (levonorgestrel) as many times as needed for emergency contraception. There is no known limit on the number of times you can safely use Plan B. Plan B can even be taken more than once in the same menstrual cycle.

While research is limited, existing data suggest repeated, long-term use of Plan B has no known health risks and does not affect future fertility. In several studies reviewed in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, taking Plan B multiple times in one cycle did not cause any serious side effects. Frequent use of Plan B is not known to pose an increased risk of birth defects or health issues in babies born to women who become pregnant or are already pregnant when Plan B is taken.

  • However, Plan B is designed for emergency use if one has sex without using a form of birth control or if existing birth control methods fail.
  • Plan B has not been tested nor approved for use as a regular, long-term birth control method.
  • It is not meant to replace standard and longer term birth control methods, such as combined oral contraceptives, progestin-only pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Longer term birth control methods are significantly more effective at preventing pregnancy than routinely taking Plan B as your only method of birth control, and they are often cheaper.

  • Taking Plan B repeatedly will expose you to higher hormone levels than standard contraceptive methods, and is likely to cause more side effects, such as menstrual changes, headache or abdominal pain.
  • Furthermore, Plan B does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and among contraceptives, only condoms lower the risk of STIs.

A doctor can advise and provide standard birth control options for emergency and longer term use, especially for those who find themselves requiring Plan B or other emergency contraception frequently. One option is the insertion of a copper IUD, which is an effective form of emergency contraception when placed within 5 to 10 days of sexual intercourse, and it can be retained to offer long-term protection.

References
  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Emergency Contraception. June 2020. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/emergency-contraception?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=otn. [Accessed July 9, 2021].
  2. International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. Repeated Use of Emergency Contraceptive Pills: The Facts. October 2015. Available at: https://www.cecinfo.org/publications-and-resources/icec-publications/repeated-use-emergency-contraceptive-pills-facts/. [Accessed July 9, 2021].
  3. Cleland K, Raymond EG, Westley E, Trussell J. Emergency contraception review: evidence-based recommendations for clinicians. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2014;57(4):741-750. doi:10.1097/GRF.0000000000000056
  4. Paediatrics & Child Health. Emergency contraception. Paediatr Child Health. 2003;8(3):181-192. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/8.3.181
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) tablet, 1.5 mg, for oral use. July 2009. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/021998lbl.pdf. [Accessed July 9, 2021].
  6. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Office on Women’s Health. Emergency contraception. April 23, 2019. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/emergency-contraception. [Accessed July 9, 2021].
  7. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). STD Awareness Month: Know the Facts. February 26, 2019. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/sam/gyt/knowthefacts.htm. [Accessed July 9, 2021].
  8. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Practice Bulletin: Emergency Contraception. September 2015. Available at: https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2015/09/emergency-contraception. [Accessed July 9, 2021].

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