Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
Ah, Plan B, the good-ol’ emergency contraception pill. Did you know it’s not the only emergency birth control option, and not even the most effective one? When it comes to emergency birth control, there are a few options (including the copper IUD!)
Pandia Health can prepare you for any “morning after” accidents by shipping you emergency contraception for FREE!
Of course, emergency contraception should not be a replacement for regular birth control. It makes you bleed irregularly and is not as effective as most of the other forms of hormonal birth control. In case you ever have a contraceptive accident, here are some key differences to note between the two common emergency contraception pill options: ella and Plan B.
ella vs Plan B: What’s the difference?
TLDR: Plan B is over the counter. ella is only available by prescription.
Plan B is easier to obtain than ella. You can get Plan B (and its generics such as MyWay, Afterpill, Econtra EZ, React Levonorgestrel, Opcicon, Athentia Next, Fallback Solo, Next Choice One Dose, Levonorgestrel) from the shelves of grocery stores or pharmacies without a prescription and with minimal human interaction.
If you’re getting ella, you’ll need a prescription which you can get through Pandia Health (we include it for FREE as part of any birth control visit) or any prescribing provider (e.g. doctor/NP/PA).
It’s best to think ahead when buying ella because the process of getting it may take longer; you can get it the next time you’re at the doctor ‘s office and keep it stored for any future contraceptive emergencies. You can also just call and ask for an “advance prescription” in case of emergencies.
Levonorgestrel is a form of progesterone and is the active ingredient in Plan B. In birth control methods like the Mirena IUD and Plan B, levonorgestrel works to prevent the release of an egg to be fertilized by a sperm; if an egg is already released, Plan B and its generics will most likely not work.
TLDR: ella beats Plan B at every time point and for up to 5 days.
If you choose Plan B as your emergency contraception, it is best to take it within 72 hours (3 days) of having unprotected sex. ella’s time frame is a little longer; studies have shown that it can work for up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex.
TLDR: if your BMI is 26 or greater, use ella.
Plan B and levonorgestrel pills are about 85% effective at preventing pregnancies. That means around 7 out of 8 people who take it as directed will not become pregnant. Taking it after 72 hours of unprotected sex also lowers its effectiveness.
ella’s efficacy is about 1-2% higher than Plan B’s and this advantage is maintained throughout the 5-day timeframe after unprotected sex.
One very important thing to note: ella is more effective than Plan B for people with BMIs greater than 25; it can work for people whose BMIs reach up to 35. If you have a BMI of 26 or more, do not use Plan B or its generics, instead, use ella or the copper IUD which work better than BOTH Plan B and ella.
Under the Affordable Care Act if you have insurance, you should not have to pay any copays for either ella or Plan B and its generics. If you are having trouble getting it covered, contact CoverHer (a nonprofit program of the National Women’s Law Center) and they can help advocate for you to get it with NO copay and NO deductible.
Without insurance, the cost of ella is around $44-50 and Plan B is $41-$50 plus tax although its generic counterparts can range from $11-$40.
Because Plan B and its generics are over-the-counter, it may be harder to get these costs covered – which is another great reason to consider going with ella instead! Note: there are many generic brands of Plan B which are cheaper than Plan B and work just as well!
Although ella may work for up to 5-days, it is still best to take either it or Plan B as soon as possible.
Like mentioned above, Plan B and ella can both be free of charge if you have insurance and are buying ahead.
The Relief of Having It Around Just in Case
Both Ella and Plan B work to prevent pregnancy BUT they are not as good as birth control methods like the IUD, implant, shot, contraceptive ring, contraceptive patch, or birth control pill! If you have a condom break or forget to take your birth control for 3 days in a row, the relief that comes with having this back-up is a welcome side-effect.
Get #PandiaPeaceofMind by making sure you are covered everyday with regular and more effective birth control and have some emergency contraception around in case you forget to take your regular birth control.
Check out this emergency contraception video featuring our CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Sophia Yen!
If you want to learn more, check out our blogs on emergency contraception. Remember, Pandia Health can help you get a prescription for ella, and deliver your usual birth control to you, both with FREE delivery! And if you have insurance, “FREE of charge” = no copay, no deductible!
This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Please consult YOUR doctor/provider before changing, stopping, or starting any medications.