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What is the Difference Between Plan B and the Abortion Pill?

Plan B emergency contraception and RU-486, or the Abortion Pill, are often confused as being the same. It is important to understand the differences between the two so that you can make the best decision possible if you have had unprotected sex or think you might be pregnant. Emergency contraception and the RU-486 treatment are used for different purposes. Here, we will discuss the difference between Plan B and the Abortion Pill, what they each do, and possible side effects you might experience.

Emergency Contraceptives or “Plan B”

Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning after pill,” is a form of over-the-counter oral birth control you can take within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. It should not be used as a regular form of birth control because it can be as little as 89% effective, even when taken properly. It is not recommended that you take Plan B contraception if you weigh over 165 pounds because it is not as effective.

How does it work?

Depending on what stage of your menstruation cycle you are in when you take emergency contraception, the pill will work in one of three ways:

  • It might hinder fertilization of the egg
  • It might prevent or postpone ovulation (release of the egg)
  • It might prevent egg fertilization by modifying uterine lining

If you are already pregnant and the fertilized egg has already been implanted in the uterus then Plan B will not have any effect on the pregnancy. Some people consider Plan B to be an “abortifacient” because it can keep a fertilized egg from implanting.

What are the side effects?

There are several side effects associated with taking emergency contraception:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Pain in the abdominal region
  • Dizziness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

The Abortion Pill

The RU-486 treatment, often referred to as the abortion pill, is a two-pill process and must be provided by a doctor. The first pill is a drug called Mifepristone, and it is usually given while at a doctor’s office. The second pill contains Misoprostol, and the dosage is usually taken at home. The Abortion Pill is only an option for women who are in their first 10 weeks of pregnancy. RU-486 can cost anywhere between $300 and $800 depending on insurance.

How does it work?

Mifepristone, the first pill, stops the flow of progesterone. Progesterone, naturally released by the ovaries, is a hormone that is necessary for the pregnancy to continue. This stops the growth of the placenta. Misoprostol, taken at home usually within 24 to 48 hours after Mifepristone has been administered, causes contractions to start and then expels the tissue from the uterus.

What are the side effects?

The side effects of the abortion pill are important for you to understand if you are pregnant or think you might be and are considering abortion:

  • Pain and cramping in the abdominal region
  • Spotting
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heavy/persistent bleeding
  • Incomplete abortion, in which case a surgical abortion will need to occur

Most of these side effects are common and can be experienced between 2 to 4 weeks following the abortion procedure. Something else to consider is the mental trauma that could occur during the second phase of the abortion pill, in which the tissue is expelled at home. Many women report a series of emotions they go through post-abortion, which are important to be aware of.

We hope that with this information, you have a better understanding of the differences between Plan B emergency contraception and the abortion pill. If you are pregnant or think you might be, Palm Beach Women’s Clinic is here to listen and give you the care you need. For free lab-quality pregnancy testing and more, schedule a confidential appointment with us today.

Palm Beach Women’s Clinic does not perform or refer for abortions.


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