• Dr. Kate Henry

Birth Control Options: Plans A, B, C + More

Becoming a parent is a major decision, and I am passionate about helping people who want to grow their families to achieve that dream through

  • Fertility and preconception care

  • Foster care

  • Adoption

  • Community involvement

  • Elder care

and more.


It's precisely because I believe that becoming a parent is such a radically important decision and the role of a parent is so important that I also firmly believe that - if you don't want to be a biological parent (yet or ever) - you should know your options for preventing a pregnancy.


I see women in my practice every day who have never been taught about their hormones, birth control options or fertility. I also see teens, twenties and even people in their thirties who are using plan B multiple times per month (incorrectly) and engaging in other unsafe birth control practice that put them at risk.


This article is meant to be a helpful resource that covers your options for preventing pregnancy, planning pregnancy, ending pregnancy and more.


How to Prevent Pregnancy: Plan A Contraception


Know Your Plan A Options and Choose One with Your Doctor


There are more than 15 different options for preventing pregnancy.


Apps like Euki, WHO Contraception Tool, Planned Parenthood and more can educate you about your options and empower you to understand the risks and benefits of both.


There are essentially 4 different categories of birth control

  • chemical (or hormonal)

  • surgical (or permanent)

  • barrier (condoms and diaphragms)

  • lifestyle (FAM and other methods)

Surgical options are ideal if you know for sure that you never want to get pregnant in the future. Surgical options exist for people with uteruses and testes.


Chemical options can work best for people who are able to take medication / get shots routinely and reliably. Some people also use chemical birth control to mitigate hormonal conditions like acne or PMS. (Although there are arguably other - better - methods to do this, it can be an added benefit).


Barrier options work best for people who need STI protection when having sex or who don't want a chemical birth control option and want to rely on barrier options to prevent pregnancy. You can use barrier methods in combination with any other method, including chemical options.


Fertility awareness method tends to work best for people who do not need STI protection, who cycle regularly, and who are capable of routinely and specifically tracking multiple aspects of their physiology to ensure that they know when they ovulate.


Source: https://www.mirena-us.com/birth-control-options


The methods on the bottom on this chart are far less reliable than the options towards the top of the chart, which can only be prescribed / placed by a physician. This is why your best option is to work with your doctor to find, choose and implement a long-term birth control option that works for you.


Action Step: Talk with Your Doctor


If you don't have an appointment scheduled with your doctor to discuss and choose the right birth control option for you, your first job is to go make that appointment. Your primary care doctor, OBGYN, planned parenthood, or college health clinic can prescribe these methods. After your first visit, set regular follow ups so you can continue to make sure it's the right method for you or make other necessary changes. Often, the first method you try won't be the exact right fit, and it's okay to go back for another appointment so you can switch things up. Sometimes it can take up to a year to truly see how a medication / birth control option will work for you.


Understand and Minimize Side Effects of Birth Control


If you choose a hormonal form of birth control, you should know that it may increase your need for the following nutrients

If you want to learn more about the nutrients you'll need to pay attention to when taking birth control, use these links

Deficiencies in the nutrients above can lead to fatigue, mood issues, muscle tension, constipation and more.


To prevent nutrient deficiencies, it's recommended by the USPSTF that every female of reproductive age take a comprehensive multivitamin each day. I recommend a general multivitamin, consuming enough protein and a magnesium supplement at night to prevent these deficiencies. Here's an example supplement protocol you could chat with your doctor about using along with eating a high protein diet.


Please talk with your doctor about how to devise a plan to prevent side effects that will work best for you, as no general plan works for everyone, and this post contains only useful information, not medical advice.


Additionally, hormonal birth controls that contain estrogen can come with side effects that include an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular events. Your doctor needs to know if you smoke or have a family history of stroke when you talk with them about birth control options, so please be honest about this information so that they can recommend an option that is truly safe for you.


Action Step:

Minimize this risk associated with hormonal birth control options by

  • Quitting smoking before using hormonal contraception

  • Be sure to make your doctor aware of any family history of stroke before beginning an estrogen containing birth control and choose progestin-only options if this is the case for you.

  • Talk with your doctor about multivitamin options that are a good fit for you.


Plan B: Emergency Contraceptive Pills and IUDs


There are two type of emergency contraceptives: pills and IUDs.


  1. Plan B is the emergency contraception pill. It is sometimes known as the morning after pill. It can be purchased over the counter and works if used within 3 days of unprotected sex as long as a pregnancy has not already occurred.

  2. Copper IUDs work as emergency contraception if placed within 5 days of unprotected sex. These have to be placed by a provider, and if wait times are long in your state for procedures like this, this may not be a good option for you. If you are sexually assaulted and seek emergency medical care, emergency medical staff will be able to offer this contraception for you, as well as STI screening.


Plan B Pills


The Plan B pill works to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation. They only work if ovulation / fertilization / implantation has not already occurred, and will not work if the person taking it has already ovulated in that cycle. This is why becoming aware of the day you or your sex partner tend to ovulate is important if you plan to use plan B. You can learn how to do this in a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility. In general, ovulation takes place 2 weeks before your next period.


Additionally, Plan B only works if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex. For that reason, it is good to have some of the medication on-hand (aka pre-order it and stock up before you need it) or to know that you can reliably get some from a local pharmacy quickly if you need it. You can order plan B online before you need it on websites like

Plan B can also be purchased at any drug store over-the-counter, by a person of any age and any gender. It is generally between $40-$50. Planned Parenthood has a great writeup on Plan B here.


Note: Plan B is also being studied more because it appears to be less effective than originally proposed when it is taken by people with a BMI over 30. Currently doctors recommend that people with a BMI over 30 to consult a provider about the copper IUD in addition to or instead of Plan B. (Evidence does not suggest that doubling up on Plan B pills is effective).


Additionally, using plan B frequently is an expensive and unreliable method of birth control compared to many of the plan A options above. For that reason, it should truly only ever be used as a backup birth control option as opposed to a primary one.


Action Step: Preorder

If you think you may need plan B at some point, preorder it so that you have it on hand in case of an emergency.


Copper IUD


The copper IUD is an intrauterine device that is placed by a medical professional into the uterus of a person who wants it. The copper IUD has the benefit of preventing contraception for up to ten years once it's placed. It's non-hormonal. The copper IUD can make cramping worse and I advise my clients to ask their providers about taking omega 3's and magnesium for the first few months after copper IUD placement to reduce cramping and pain effectively. Your provider will know if this is a good option for you.



Plan C Birth Control: Accessing the Plan C Pill Combo


Plan A birth control is meant to prevent pregnancy, which is always the best method of contraception.


Sometimes, however, plan A and plan B methods fail.


If that happens, there are two main ways to terminate a pregnancy after conception: surgical and prescription.


Plan C Pills

Prescriptions that end pregnancy can be accessed through primary care providers, OBGYNs, Planned Parenthood and online through companies like



Plan C pills work by causing the uterus to contract and empty its contents -- similar to what happens during a period. The pills come as a combination pack and are taken one after the other. Plan C pills do come with side effects that you should discuss with the provider who prescribes them. Often, getting plan C pills can cost between $100-$300+, although some companies have financing / other financial options available.


If you are in a state that allows medical abortion, your primary care provider, college health clinic doctor, OBGYN or Planned Parenthood Clinician can prescribe these for you. However, you'll need an appointment and you should call the office to be seen immediately as many doctors have long wait times due to our healthcare shortage in the U.S.


If you are in a state that criminalizes or is attempting to criminalize medical abortion, please be careful with written communication and online searches regarding seeking abortion care. The companies' websites above contain an abundance of information about how to use these pills and who qualifies for these prescriptions. Before visiting these websites, I highly suggest you get familiar with state laws around plan C use and protect yourself if you choose to search online.


Action Step

Understand the laws surround Plan C use in your state.


Abortion: Accessing Surgical Options for Ending Pregnancy


Surgical abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy.


If you are in a state that allows medical abortion, your OBGYN can provide this service or refer you to someone who can. Your primary care doctor can help with referrals. Planned parenthood also provides abortions. You can search online for abortion care here

Delaying seeking care for surgical abortion is unwise, because due to the medical provider shortage in the U.S., you may have to wait weeks to see a provider. Some states have limits on the type of procedures they can provide depending on how many weeks into pregnancy a person is. If you think you may need a surgical abortion, call your provider, local clinic or start your search immediately and don't delay.


Adoption: Pregnancy Does Not Equal Parenthood


It's worth noting here that if you do become pregnant but don't want to become a parent, there are a variety of ways to carry the pregnancy to term and ensure that the infant born has a loving family to care for them through adoption.


There are many organizations in each state that are dedicated to helping people who want support in carrying a healthy pregnancy that leads to adoption. You can look up on close to you and generally can call for a confidential consult to see if this might be a good option for you. The U.S. government has a website that can help you understand your options here.


I'm not an expert on adoption, but I plan to become one because I believe it's an important way to grow one's family that is often left out of conversations about fertility - particularly as it relates to adopting from foster or kinship care. In the future, I'll have more information about this posted to the blog, so stay tuned.


Summary


There are many options for family planning and pregnancy prevention that are available in person and online. None of these options are perfect, and I'm not recommending any of them. This article is informational and meant to empower you to understand the variety of options available for contraception.


What I do absolutely believe is that you have the right to decide if and when to have a family.


It's my hope that with this article you and your loved ones can begin to understand your options when it comes to contraception and parenthood, and start to have informed conversations with your own providers about which options may be best for you.


This article does not contain medical or legal advice. Please use the information discussed in this post to have an informed conversation with your medical provider and legal counsel about your unique situation.