Comparing the Abortion Pill and Plan B

If you recently discovered you’re pregnant and are wondering what to do next, give yourself a moment to breathe and calmly assess your situation before proceeding. Rushing into any decision that will change the course of your future wouldn’t be in your best interest. Instead, take it one step at a time by considering and researching every option. 

After realizing you could be pregnant, you probably noticed boxes of Plan B on most drugstore shelves near the pregnancy tests. If you’re wondering about the differences between Plan B and the abortion pill, we have you covered. We will take a look at each one separately, what they’re made of, and how they work, to give you a clear understanding before moving forward.

Plan B: the morning-after pill

Plan B is an emergency contraceptive known as the morning-after pill because women will typically take this as an oral tablet within 72 hours of unprotected sex. No matter the brand, all forms of Plan B use the same drug, levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone similar to the natural hormone, progesterone.

Plan B works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg during ovulation, so the sperm will not be able to fertilize it. If the sperm has already fertilized the egg, Plan B may prevent implantation of the fertilized egg to the lining of the uterus (the womb). If the fertilized egg has already implanted in the womb, Plan B will not end a developing pregnancy.

Although sold over-the-counter, Plan B is a serious drug and should not be taken with certain medications or herbal supplements. It can cause serious side effects such as: heavier or lighter menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, tiredness, and breast pain or tenderness. 

Medication Abortion: the abortion pill

Medication abortion, also known as “the abortion pill” differs from Plan B because instead of preventing a pregnancy, it ends a pregnancy. This abortion procedure can only be performed within the first ten weeks of pregnancy, and can’t be purchased at a drugstore like Plan B. As with any medical procedure, it’s important to have all the facts before moving forward.

The abortion pill consists of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Women typically take the first dose, mifepristone, in the abortion clinic. This drug blocks the hormone progesterone needed to continue the developing pregnancy. Without this hormone, the pregnancy will end. Then, 24 to 48 hours later, the woman will take the second dose of the abortion pill, misoprostol. This causes heavy cramping and bleeding to expel the pregnancy out the uterus. This process can take several hours, but the experience varies for everyone. Women who undergo this process will need to schedule a follow-up visit with a doctor to ensure there were no complications.

Mayo Clinic lists potential risks, including:

  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Incomplete abortion, requiring a surgical abortion
  • An ongoing unwanted pregnancy
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Digestive system discomfort

If you experience heavy bleeding that soaks two or more pads an hour for two hours, severe abdominal or back pain, fever lasting for over 24 hours, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge, you will need to seek medical attention.

Plan B and the Abortion Pill

Plan B and the abortion pill use different drugs to carry out separate purposes. While Plan B works primarily to prevent a pregnancy, the abortion pill ends a pregnancy. Plan B uses a synthetic hormone similar to progesterone to stop fertilization and implantation, and the abortion pill blocks progesterone all together. They both have different and serious implications and side effects, and both decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly.

We Can Help

Unexpected pregnancies are never easy, even for those who seem to have everything mapped out. No matter where you are in the decision process, schedule an appointment at First Coast Women’s Services for free pregnancy testing and a limited ultrasound, or to speak with a caring counselor about the options and resources available to you. We’re here to help!