Considering your own reproductive-health needs is not a task to push to the future, especially given the current political climate. With President Trump’s proposed gag rule threatening to strip women of the necessary reproductive health resources, like Planned Parenthood, and his stated support of electing a Supreme Court justice in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, now is the time for taking your body’s rights into your own hands. A simple way to do this is ensuring sure you have emergency contraception on hand (for your own use and for anyone you love who might need help). But, how long is the shelf life on over-the-counter pill solutions, in case you want to stock up?
According to Roohi Jeelani, MD, a specialist at Vios Fertility Institute, morning-after emergency contraception pills like Preventeza and Plan B One-Step last at least a few years without refrigeration if left unopened. However, it’s important to reference the actual manufacturing date rather than the day you bought the pills to make sure the medication will still be effective. Birth control pills, on the other hand, tend to stay good for between one and four years, while the NuvaRing only lasts four months in the fridge. But again, she recommends taking a look at the stamped expiration date.
Morning-after emergency contraception pills last at least a few years without refrigeration if left unopened, according to Roohi Jeelani, MD.
But if political policies make these options unavailable, or you’re in a pinch, or you just don’t have the $47 (or more) to drop on emergency contraception, Dr. Jeelani says there’s one more option. “Plan B, Preventeza—they’re all essentially a birth control pill at a much higher dose, so the component of the birth control pill that actually prevents pregnancy or prevents the release of the egg from the ovary is the progestin part,” she explains. This means “if you take your birth control and you quadruple the dose, it will have the same effect.” Princeton University’s Office of Population Research adds that while not specifically sold as emergency contraception, these elevated doses of only certain brands of birth control brands are proven safe to use for preventing pregnancy in the days after a sexual encounter. But since birth control has an estrogen component, Dr. Jeelani notes this method is more likely to include side-effects like nausea, vomiting, headache, or abdominal pain.
Of course, it’s most advisable to use all medication as directed on the box or prescribed by a professional. But in the event those boxes become unavailable and professionals can’t prescribe what you need, you can take some comfort in having options.
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