For information about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health in Victoria

Plan B. What is it and how does it work?

on 16 Sep 2022 5:43 AM
Photo of a single pill packet on a purple background

You may have heard the term Plan B on social media or in films or tv, but do you know what it is?

Plan B is an American brand name for the emergency contraception medication called Levonorgestrel.

Emergency contraceptive pills are available in Australia too, but ‘Plan B’ is not a brand name that is used here. So, to avoid any confusion always ask your pharmacist or doctor for the Emergency Contraceptive pill rather than Plan B. In Australia this medication can also be known as ‘The Morning After Pill’.

The two types of emergency contraceptive pills most commonly available in Australia are Levonorgestrel and Ulipristal Acetate.

The pills are around 85% effective, and work best if you take them within 24 hours of having unprotected sex.

Levonorgestrel, can be taken up to 3 days after unprotected sex. Ulipristal Acetate (sold as EllaOne) can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Ulipristal Acetate is more effective than Levonorgestrel. Both options are available from pharmacists without a prescription. 

These pills work by preventing or delaying ovulation (this is when a mature egg is released from the ovary). Despite what you might hear, use of the emergency contraception pill is NOT an abortion. Emergency contraception works by preventing pregnancy whilst abortion is a medical procedure used to end a pregnancy (via medication or surgery). If you are already pregnant before you take emergency contraception the pills will not work.

If you’re going to a pharmacist for the Emergency Contraceptive pill, they will need to ask you some questions. These questions might include:

Pharmacists, however, have NO right to ask you about your sexual partners, or - if you are a young person - if your parents know that you are having sex.

Emergency contraceptive pills will not harm a pregnancy. It is safe to continue the pregnancy or have an abortion.