Do You Have a Travel Plan B?

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Call me crazy, but there is one thing I never travel internationally without: Plan B.

Plan B is the brand name for emergency contraception here in Canada.  It used to be available only by prescription, but is now available over the counter.  Some pharmacies sell it on the shelf alongside the condoms, while others still keep it behind the counter (but no prescription is required!).  I’ve seen prices range from $36 at a big-name drug store to $18 at Costco (you don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacy).   You can even buy it on Amazon for $39.99 (buy it in advance so that its efficacy is not affected by the time it takes to ship).

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When you buy Plan B you might be surprised by the size of the box, but it’s just for marketing purposes on the shelf.

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The actual contents of the box are very small, and can easily be slipped into your travel first aid kit.

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See?  Each of the two pills is smaller than a penny, and the enter package is about half the size of a credit card.

Emergency contraception is not “the abortion pill”.  Emergency contraception prevents ovulation and/or fertilization from taking place in the first place, much like a regular birth control pill.  Emergency contraception can have side effects, and I would not recommend using it is a primary form of birth control.

Why do I pack it?  Sadly, the fear of sexual assault is very real.  I was attacked once while I was living abroad.  My attacker was a lunatic and it was mid-day in a busy place, so it didn’t have time to escalate to rape.  However, if circumstances had been different I could have found myself a rape victim in a highly-religious country, where I spoke little of the local language and had no family doctor.  Carrying emergency contraception gives you a little sense of control over an uncontrollable situation- if something does go horribly wrong, you will have done everything possible to prevent an attack from resulting in a pregnancy.

The last time I bought Plan B was before my trip to Eastern Europe in 2010.  I brought the same, unused pills with me to Central America, Mexico and back to Europe in the following years.  When I went to pack for my Peru trip I noticed that the pills I had on hand had expired, so I bought a new package this summer.  If all goes as planned it will sit, unused, in my luggage on many more trips between now and 2017!

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