Note: There are two brands of hormonal Emergency Contraception (EC) on the market now -Plan B (which was the only brand out, when I needed the stuff) and Ella (which was approved by the FDA in August 2010). I am using EC interchangeably with ‘Plan B’ because I’m more familiar with Plan B and mostly because ‘Plan B’ is an excellent and descriptive name for EC. ‘Ella,’ however, is a popular name for baby girls right now. Talk about a marketing FAIL. But Ella also works for up to 120 hours (5 days) after intercourse – and that makes this EC- new -kid on -the -block kind of awesome, regardless of what she’s called.
About 4 years ago, a bit of broken-condom drama entered my life. In fact, I hadn’t even realized what had happened. About 15 minutes after my sweetie left my apartment, the phone rang and he was like “you probably want to know that I think the condom broke that last time around.” These words sent chills down my spine. Total dork that I am, I like to keep track of where I am in my menstrual cycle. Lo and behold, I was ovulating. The first thing that flashed through my brain was: Plan B.
So I had heard of the morning-after pill, but wasn’t that familiar with how it worked (of course, at the moment, I didn’t really care how it worked, just that it worked). I also knew that it was $10 at my university’s clinic (now it’s $15). The problem was that because it was summer, the clinic opened at 10 and closed around 3 . I worked 9-5. I couldn’t take off on short notice, so I thought about other options. Walgreens was nearby and since the one close to me is open 24 hours, I went right away (it’s not like I could have slept anyway). To my dismay, Plan B was $55. I knew it would cost more than at school, but sheesh! To add insult to price-shock, the young bepimpled guy behind the counter asked if I wanted to buy a couple rounds ‘since some people like to stock up.’ I know he was just up-selling, and I’m firmly behind keeping Plan B around, but in the face of spending over $50 at 2AM, that’s the last thing I wanted to hear. All told, I smacked down the credit card and charged some peace of mind.
Later, as I reflected more rationally on the situation, I was pissed that #1 I didn’t compare prices – Walmart would have been cheaper, and #2 that students at an expensive private university have access to affordable EC, but not everyone (even Planned Parenthood was charging around $30 – some people’s food budgets). After doing more research on the matter, I learned of the anxiety that some people seem to have about it being ‘abused’ as a drug in place of a more regular birth control regimen. This struck me as odd, since all Plan B is, is a large dose of levonorgestral, a synthetic form of progesterone and sometimes ethinyl estradiol a synthetic form of estrogen, and both ingredients in many birth control pills.
If I can get a month’s worth of progestin-only pills for about $25 – the amount of Levonorgestral in about 5 rounds of Plan B – then why does EC cost $30-$50 a pop? A good friend suggested more research before hacking my Emergency Contraception. Luckily enough, real-deal medical professionals at Princeton have actually checked this out and have made a handy-dandy chart showing how various brands of regular birth control pills can be taked as EC. Personally, even with my pretty reliable IUD, I’ve found it comforting to have several rounds available in the bathroom cabinet at an affordable price.
We can all use ideas for cheaper (but equally-effective) birth control. Any tips?
[image from: http://www.ecnow.org/]