Can You Take Plan B While On Birth Control? What You Should Consider

True to its name, Plan B can be thought of as a sort of backup plan. It's used in the event that one's birth control fails, a dosage may have been skipped, or a person engages in unprotected sex. The medication works by stopping the body's ovulation process in order to prevent pregnancy (via Cleveland Clinic). Also referred to as "the morning-after pill," this form of emergency contraception may also be used in cases of non-consensual sex.

The morning-after pill comes in three different forms. However, the most well-known version is the progestin-only oral pill Plan B One-Step® — which can be obtained without a prescription. The sooner you take Plan B, the more effective it will be. Specifically, Plan B is best taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. Its effectiveness will decrease after this window, although it may still be moderately effective if taken within five days' time.

If you're someone who regularly takes birth control pills, you may be wondering: is it safe to take Plan B on top of what you're already taking?

Cases where you shouldn't take Plan B with birth control

For those who are already prescribed oral birth control pills, Plan B is safe to take under most circumstances. For instance, Plan B should be utilized in the event that you've had unprotected sex and have missed three or more days of your regular birth control pills, reproductive health expert Dr. Sophia Yen explains to Insider. Once you've taken Plan B, don't delay taking your normal prescription either. Rather, go ahead and take both medications the same day as prescribed. While Plan B can help prevent pregnancy in the short term, it's your birth control that will provide you with ongoing protection. Because it will take some time before your birth control starts working again, consider using an added layer of protection for the next week, such as a condom.

There are cases, however, in which a person on birth control pills should not take Plan B. For example, if you haven't missed any pills but are just looking to layer on a little bit of extra protection, Plan B should not be used for this purpose. In essence, you'd be doubling up on hormones if you were to take Plan B in tandem with regular birth control doses. This can lead to pelvic pain, nausea, or vomiting. If you're interested in utilizing a second method of contraception, consider a condom instead.

Plan B side effects -- and when to see your doctor

In the aftermath of taking Plan B, some people may experience spotting, changes to the timing of one's period, abdomen or breast pain, fatigue, headaches, or nausea — amongst other side effects. Should you experience digestive discomfort, try taking Plan B with a meal or using an anti-nausea medication.

When taken promptly, Plan B can be very effective in preventing pregnancy. However, there are no guarantees. If you take Plan B, but notice that your period is more than a week late, experts encourage taking a pregnancy test or seeing your doctor. In the absence of any abnormalities, however, seeing your doctor after taking Plan B is not usually necessary. For those who wish to become pregnant in the future, taking Plan B will not affect their ability to do so, since it is not a permanent form of contraception.