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Dr. Nicole Sparks has the rundown on emergency contraceptives

Emerald Pellot
·3-min read

Dr. Nicole Sparks is an OB-GYN and women’s advocate, best known online for her educational TikToks.

Dr. Sparks is always ready to school us on reproductive health and told In The Know everything we need to know about emergency contraceptives. She broke down some of the most common methods, including Plan B, Ella and the copper IUD.

“If you’re worried that the condom may have broken during sex or if you’re worried that you recently had unprotected sex and you don’t know what to do, there is a solution and it’s called emergency contraception,” Dr. Sparks explained.

But Dr. Sparks started off by dispelling rumors: Emergency contraception does not terminate an active pregnancy, instead, it prevents pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected sex.

Plan B

“The reason why we really like this is now it’s actually sold over-the-counter,” Dr. Sparks said. “And so it’s just one pill and you have to take it within three days. It’s most effective when you take it as soon as you’ve had unprotected sex, but it can work up to 72 hours.”

How does Plan B work?

Plan B works by delaying the ovulation process to prevent conception. There is one caveat, however.

“You want to make sure after you take this you don’t then have unprotected sex later on in your cycle because you can still get pregnant in that same cycle,” Dr. Sparks added.

How much does Plan B cost?

You can usually find Plan B at most pharmacies and it costs between $40 and $50.

What side effects can you expect after taking Plan B?

Sometimes it can cause nausea, vomiting or headaches but the symptoms eventually subside, according to Dr. Sparks.

“Sometimes you may also notice that you have some unscheduled or abnormal bleeding,” she said. “Usually, your menses will come within one week of you taking the pill.”

How do I know if the Plan B pill worked?

There’s no real immediate indicator to know if the pill was effective or not.

“The best thing you want to do is take the pill as close to the time of unprotected sex as possible,” Dr. Sparks explained. “Also, if you’re really worried, wait about a week and then take a pregnancy test and just make sure that it’s negative.”

Are there any other types of emergency contraception?

Ella, or ulipristal acetate, is another form of emergency birth control. It contains 30 milligrams of hormone but requires a prescription, unlike Plan B.

“The good thing about this pill is that it works longer than 72 hours,” Dr. Sparks said. “You can take it up to 120 hours or five days after unprotected intercourse.”

However, like Plan B, she said, it is most effective if you take it as soon as possible.

Dr. Sparks also recommended the Paraguard IUD or copper IUD.

“Similar to Ella, this actually will be effective if it is placed within five days of unprotected sex,” she explained. “And the other added benefit is that you can just keep it in for contraception after that.”

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