Does Plan B expire? Shelf life and effectiveness
In the wake of the recent Roe v. Wade reversal, some women and people with uteruses are feeling anxious about their reproductive options. Maybe you’re worried that abortion won’t always be available in your state. Or maybe it’s already harder to obtain.
If you don’t want to get pregnant right now, you may want to stockpile some Plan B for future use. Plan B is an emergency contraceptive pill that doesn’t require a prescription. Plan B is not an abortion pill, so it won’t halt an existing pregnancy. However, it may be able to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or an untimely birth control blunder.
Like most medications, Plan B has an expiration date. Below, we’ll review the shelf life of Plan B. We’ll also offer some tips for storing Plan B so you can maximize its shelf life.
Does Plan B expire?
Yes. Plan B typically expires after four years. You can find the expiration date for a package of Plan B on the side of the box.
Keep in mind that any Plan B you purchase at the store or pharmacy may have been sitting around on the shelves for some time. As a result, you’ll want to check your Plan B’s expiration date, rather than assuming it still has four more good years left in it.
Can you take expired Plan B?
If you stockpile Plan B for future use, you may be wondering if it’s okay to use it after it has expired. Health experts don’t recommend doing so. An Expired Plan B pill may not be dangerous, but it most likely won’t be as effective. There’s no point in taking Plan B if it doesn’t work.
Medications have expiration dates because they’re only studied for a set period of time. Drug manufacturers can’t guarantee the safety or efficacy of a product that’s past its expiration date. In turn, Plan B manufacturers may not know how expired Plan B affects the body. They may also not be liable for any issues you experience after taking expired Plan B, so you do so at your own risk.
What is the efficacy of Plan B in preventing pregnancy?
When it comes to this emergency contraceptive pill, you may be wondering exactly how long does Plan B stay in your system and how effective is it. Plan B is most effective if you take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. As soon as intercourse is over, the clock starts ticking. If you use Plan B within this 72-hour time frame, its efficacy rate is between 75% to 89%.
You can take Plan B for up to five days after having unprotected sex, but it may not be quite as effective during day four or five.
In addition to the time that you take it, Plan B’s efficacy can be impacted by your:
Menstrual cycle phase – If you’re currently ovulating or have already ovulated, Plan B may not be effective. That’s because Plan B works primarily by delaying ovulation. If ovulation has already occurred, Plan B won’t be able to reverse it.
Weight – Plan B is best suited for women and people with uteruses who have BMIs under 30. If your BMI is between 30 and 35, ella may be a better emergency contraceptive for you. If you’re wondering about the difference between ella vs. Plan B, ella is a prescription-only emergency contraceptive that’s more effective than Plan B for people with higher BMIs. Another perk of ella is that its efficacy remains the same over the first five days.
Medication use – Certain prescription drugs and herbal supplements may interact with Plan B and lower its efficacy, such as:
Some seizure and HIV medications
Certain antibiotics and antifungal medications
Rather than stopping these medications to use Plan B, consult with your doctor about the best path forward.
When it comes to expired Plan B, there’s no data about its efficacy. That’s why it’s not a good idea to rely on it for pregnancy prevention.
Factors that may influence Plan B’s shelf life
While Plan B can stay fresh for up to four years, its efficacy may be reduced early if it's exposed to direct sunlight, heat, moisture, and humidity. These elements can break down the sensitive hormones in the Plan B pill.
With these factors in mind, let’s examine how to safely and properly store Plan B.
How to store Plan B to optimize its shelf life
Here are a few tips for storing Plan B for future use:
Store it in its original packaging
Keep it out of direct sunlight
Don’t leave it anywhere that gets humid
Place it somewhere that remains at room temperature at all times
Some suitable storage locations may include your bedroom nightstand, kitchen pantry, or medicine cabinet. In contrast, sunlit bookshelves and steamy bathrooms are a no-go.
Should you stockpile Plan B?
In the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade decision, you may have decided to start saving up some Plan B. If so, you’re not alone. An online health company saw a 600% increase in orders of Plan B after the supreme court decision.
Keeping a few extra packages of Plan B on hand can certainly be a smart move. If you or a friend needs to take Plan B quickly after unprotected sex, you’ll have it ready to go. By eliminating the need to take a trip to the pharmacy, you can take Plan B within the optimal 72-hour window with ease.
Just make sure you only purchase as much Plan B as you can reasonably expect to use within the next four years or so. Otherwise, your stockpile may go to waste as it expires. You can also always restock your supply quickly and conveniently with online providers, like The Pill Club.
How many times can you take Plan B?
Another common question regarding this emergency contraceptive pill is how often can you take Plan B? You can take Plan B as often as you need to, even if that means taking it multiple times within one month. Plan B can bring you peace of mind if you had sex and:
You missed a few of your birth control pills this month
The diaphragm slipped out
Your hormonal patch got detached or you forgot to replace it in time
Your ring came out for more than three hours
You got lost in the moment and forgot to use protection
While there may not be any danger to taking Plan B multiple times in a month, it may send your body on a bit of a hormonal roller coaster. Don’t be surprised if your menstrual cycle seems out of whack for a few weeks afterward.
Just remember that the Plan B morning-after pill is meant to be an emergency addition to your birth control pill or method. This can be in the cause of birth control failure, unprotected sexual intercourse, and the rest of the reasons outlined above.
But, whether you take Plan B once or several times, you may also experience some short-term side effects.
What are the most common side effects of Plan B?
After your body receives the sudden influx of hormones from Plan B, you may experience:
It's important to keep an eye out for these side effects of the morning-after pill as they can be similar to the signs that Plan B didn't work in some instances. You may also notice temporary changes to your menstrual cycle. For instance, your period may come a little earlier or later than expected. One 2007 study found that 13% of people experience a delay in their period of seven days or more after taking emergency contraception. Your period may also be longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter than normal.
Luckily, these menstrual cycle changes typically only last for a month or two.
What are some effective alternatives to Plan B to prevent pregnancy?
Plan B is a beneficial backup contraceptive, but it’s not designed to replace regular birth control.
Rather than relying solely on Plan B, you can enjoy more reliable pregnancy prevention by using the following types of contraception:
If you want to be extra careful, you may even want to double up on birth control methods. For example, you can take birth control pills and have your partner wear a condom or, you can use spermicide along with an IUD.
Note: Hormonal birth control and emergency contraceptives can help prevent pregnancy, but they don’t shield against STIs. You’ll need to use a barrier method, like a condom, to protect against HIV and other STIs.
The Pill Club: Get affordable birth control and Plan B online
Now that you understand Plan B’s shelf life, storage requirements, and efficacy rate, you can stockpile a few packs so you’re always prepared. You can also explore other birth control options with The Pill Club.
Here at The Pill Club, we make it easy to get the birth control and emergency contraception you need online. Our healthcare team can recommend which birth control option – from one of our 120 birth control brands – may work best for you.
The Pill Club ships to your home for free in discreet packaging with self-care extras, and if you have insurance, most plans cover prescription birth control for as little as $0.
At The Pill Club, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Articles are written by experienced contributors; they are grounded in research and evidence-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and extensively reviewed by our team of experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.