Is the "morning-after pill" the same as the abortion pill?
Nope! They are not the same.
Contraception prevents pregnancy. Abortion ends a pregnancy.
Emergency contraception (aka. the morning-after pill or EC) is capable of preventing a pregnancy. The mechanisms of emergency contraception are not the same as the abortion pill.
First, a reminder of how pregnancy works:
There's this belief that immediately after sex that you're either pregnant of you're not. But that's not really how it works. Sperm can live for up to 5 days in a person's body after ejaculation. So it can take up to that long for fertilization of an egg to occur. This is why you can get pregnant if you have sex a few days before ovulation. The actual fertilization can occur days after having sex, and then it takes another week or so for implantation to happen.
Second, how the morning-after pill works:
It's helpful to recognize that there are 2 types of morning-after pills:
1. Levonorgestrel (common brand name = Plan B)
2. Ulipristal (common brand name = Ella)
For the sake of this article, we'll call them Plan B and Ella.
Plan B (aka. levonorgestrel)
- Stops the ovaries from releasing eggs & prevents sperms from reaching any existing eggs
- Similar to what’s in regular birth control but at a much higher dose
- More accessible (available over-the-counter without a prescription of ID)
- If you take it within 24 hours of unprotected sex, it prevents pregnancy in 95% of cases.
- Can work up to 3 days after unprotected sex (but more effective the sooner you take it)
- Recommended for women under 165lb
Ella (aka. ulipristal)
- Also delays and/or prevents ovulation
- More effective (Ella is 65% more effective at preventing pregnancy than Plan B when it’s taken within 24 hours. If taken within 72 hours, Ella is still 42% more effective than Plan B.)
- Can work up to 5 days after unprotected sex (but more effective the sooner you take it)
- Has a higher BMI limit than Plan B. It should be effective for women up to 195 lb.
Third, how the abortion pill works:
The abortion pill can end a pregnancy through medication rather than an internal procedure. It can be used safely up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.
In Canada, the medical abortion regimen is sold under the brand name Mifegymiso, and includes 2 medications: Mifepristone and Misoprostol. It became available to the public in January 2017.
1. First, a Mifepristone tablet is taken.
- Mifepristone is a medication that blocks the effect of progesterone, a hormone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue.
- Misoprostol is a prostaglandin and causes contractions of the uterus and relaxation of the cervix.
- Misoprostol is also used to induce labor, treat postpartum bleeding, and to prevent and treat stomach ulcers.
So, now that we've covered how everything works, hopefully it's clear why the morning-after pill is not the same as a medical abortion!
At Slipp, we believe it is crucial to have options. Although we recommend always practicing safe sex, we think resources like the morning-after pill and medical abortions are crucial for reproductive health and bodily autonomy. We support your right to choose. 💜