Maybe you’ve heard of Plan B, the emergency contraceptive or morning after pill, and the term medical abortion or abortion pill, but you aren’t really sure what they are or how they work. Are they the same thing? Are they different? Where do you get it? When do you take it? How does it work after sex?
It’s important to know that they are two different options. Let’s look at some of the most common questions and differences regarding Plan B and a medical abortion.
What Is Plan B?
Plan B is an emergency progestin-only contraceptive intended to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex or after contraception failure, such as a condom breaking. This single-dose pill contains higher levels of the same hormones found in daily contraceptive pills and works in much the same way – by preventing ovulation.
When Would You Consider Taking The Morning After Pill?
- You had sex and the condom broke.
- You normally use protection, but things got carried away and you didn’t.
- You were drinking too much and didn’t use protection.
- You are on the pill, but you missed a couple of doses or haven’t been taking it regularly.
- You were sexually assaulted.
When Is It Taken?
The Plan B pill is taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It must be taken within 72 hours.
Will Plan B Prevent A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?
No. Emergency contraception only lowers the risk of becoming pregnant. If you are having unprotected sex, we can offer information and referrals to help you make informed decisions about your sexual health and lower your risk for an STI.
If you think you may have been exposed to an STI, then give us a call at 530.272.6800 immediately. We provide free STI & STD testing and sexual behavior risk assessment and education.
Are There Side Effects?
Some women report side effects similar to those of regular oral birth-control pills: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headache, dizziness, and breast tenderness.
Does The Morning After Pill Work If You’re Already Pregnant?
No. Plan B works to prevent pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception will not end a pregnancy. If you think you are pregnant, we invite you to come in for a free pregnancy test.
Is Plan B The Same Thing As The Abortion Pill?
No. The abortion pill, RU-486, which is also known as a medical abortion, is given after a pregnancy has begun and a fertilized embryo has attached to the uterus wall. It works by causing the uterus to force out the egg, ending the pregnancy. Emergency contraception is designed to work before pregnancy begins, while a medical abortion terminates an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks gestational age. We invite you to come in for a free ultrasound scan to confirm your pregnancy is 10 weeks or less gestational age. Give us a call today at 530.272.6800 to schedule a free and confidential appointment.
What is a Medical Abortion?
A medical abortion uses a combination of pills to end an early pregnancy, so it is considered to a nonsurgical abortion. This procedure is often started at a medical clinic and then finished at home. Typically a doctor will evaluate your medical history and run some lab work before starting the procedure.
The first medication taken is Mifepristone (also known as “Mifeprex” or “RU-486”), and the second is usually taken hours or days later at home; this medication is called Misoprostol (also known as “Cytotec”).
The first pill blocks the hormone progesterone, which causes the embryo to stop growing. The second pill causes your uterus to contract, which creates bleeding and cramping. If the procedure is successful, it will cause the embryo to be dispelled from the uterus.
Potential Side Effects with a Medical Abortion
The pills used for a medical abortion have also been known to create symptoms (besides bleeding and cramping) that may require you to take additional medications because of pain, such as:
- Fever chills
Sometimes antibiotics are needed if an infection occurs.
There are also physical and emotional side effects that can occur from having a medical abortion. It is important to be aware of the possible symptoms and to make sure you are able to receive medical attention quickly if you experience any.
Some possible physical side effects of the procedure are:
- Having a fever for more than 24 hours
- Heavy bleeding for a long time
- Foul-smelling discharge from your vagina
- Digestive issues
- Extreme back and/or abdominal pain.
Some possible emotional side effects are:
- Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (also known as PASS).
There is also a possibility that the abortion is considered to be incomplete, which means you will still have an on-going pregnancy. If this happens, a surgical abortion may have to be done if you still wish to end the pregnancy.
How We Can Help
Our team at LivingWell Medical Clinic is dedicated to helping you. While we don’t recommend the morning after pill or abortion pill to our clients, we do want you to have all the information to make the best decision for you. If you have other questions about Plan B or medical abortion, please call us at 530.272.6800 and you can text us at 530.802.0858. We’d love to talk through all of your options with you and answer any questions you may have.
The content on this page has been reviewed and approved by our Medical Director.