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Abortion Pill and Morning After Pill: Is There a Difference?

The abortion pill can often be confused with the morning after pill, however, these are not the same things. It is important to know what the difference is. Let’s break it down further and get a better understanding.

Medication name (most common):

mifepristone (RU-486) in combination with misoprostol


Medication name (most common):

-ulipristal (ella)

-progestin-only pills (Plan B One-Step)


What is the abortion pill?

Medication taken to terminate the pregnancy of a developing baby.


What is the morning-after pill?

Emergency contraception medication taken to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. It does not cause an abortion or miscarriage.

Who is the abortion pill for?

Women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and seek to terminate the intrauterine pregnancy.


Who is the morning-after pill for?

Women who have had unprotected sexual intercourse – in situations such as sexual assault or contraceptive failure (forgetting to take birth control, condom breaking or slipping off, not using a birth control method during sex).

How does the abortion pill work?

Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid that blocks the effects of progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and therefore cannot sustain the developing baby. The FDA has approved for this drug to be taken up to 70 days of gestation. Once a single dose of mifepristone is given, the woman then self-administers misoprostol in a non-clinical setting, 24-72 hours after taking mifepristone. The misoprostol is a prostaglandin that causes the uterus to contract and expel the baby.

How does the morning-after pill work?

-Ulipristal affects the hormone progesterone in the body thus delaying or preventing ovulation. It can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. It is available by prescription only.

-Progestin-only is a hormone that delays or prevents ovulation. It is most effective when taken as soon as possible but can be taken within 3 days after unprotected sex. It is available over the counter.


What are the side effects of the abortion pill?

GI discomfort (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), pain, and excessive vaginal bleeding. Many women require pain medication for relief of pain. On occasion, surgical intervention may be required to terminate the pregnancy if side effects are poorly tolerated.


What are the side effects of the morning-after pill?

Irregular spotting or bleeding in the week or month after taking emergency contraceptive (goes away on its own). Other short-term side effects include headache, GI upset, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, dizziness, and fatigue.


What are the complications of the abortion pill?

Hemorrhage, infection, incomplete abortion, and unrecognized ectopic pregnancy. There are rare cases of fatal sepsis that have occurred.

What are the complications of the morning after pill?

Emergency contraceptives have not been shown to cause serious complications.


What is the follow-up visit for the abortion pill?

It is conducted within 2 weeks of treatment to ensure that the pregnancy was completely expelled and to identify complications requiring treatment.

What is the follow-up visit for the morning-after pill?

No follow-up is required.



Prestonwood Pregnancy Center offers individual guidance and accurate information about all pregnancy options including abortion procedures and risks. Please call 972-428-4700 or use our online scheduler to book your appointment.

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