What is the “Abortion Pill?” Is the Abortion Pill and the “Morning After Pill” the same? The Abortion Pill and Morning After Pill are not the same medication and they each function very differently. This article is intended for informational purposes so that you can differentiate between the Morning After Pill and the Abortion Pill.
The Morning After Pill, also commonly known as Plan B, is a popular name for numerous brands of birth control pills that contain the hormone Levonorgestrel. These pills can be used to prevent ovulation and do not harm an existing pregnancy when taken as directed. In California, a prescription is not required to obtain birth control pills.
The Abortion Pill is a drug called Mifepristone, Mifeprex, or RU486 and is available by prescription only. Mifepristone, when used in combination with Misoprostol, disrupts an existing pregnancy (but not if the pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy-a different procedure or medication will be needed). It is now approved for use up to 70 days (10 weeks) from a woman’s last menstrual period to terminate an early pregnancy. Mifepristone is obtained, with a doctor’s prescription only, at your local pharmacy such as Walgreen’s Pharmacy or CVS Pharmacy.
Disrupting an existing pregnancy is a two-part regimen when using these pills. Mifepristone, or Mifeprex, is an anti-progesterone that ends a pregnancy by blocking the uterine wall receptors to the hormone progesterone. This causes the lining of the uterine walls to shed like they do during a menstrual cycle. It also softens and dilates the cervix, thus facilitating abortion.
Misoprostol is used to help expel the pregnancy. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin that induces uterine contractions and softens and dilates the cervix. It is used approximately two days after taking Mifepristone to complete the abortion process. When used in combination with Mifepristone, abortion is complete approximately 97% of the time.
After taking the Mifepristone and Misoprostol regimen, it is common to experience pelvic cramping and vaginal bleeding and spotting, including the expelling of tissue and blood clots for an average of 9-16 days. It is also common to experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, fever, chills, weakness, and diarrhea.
A follow-up visit 7-14 days after taking the abortion pill regimen is very important to ensure there is no tissue left behind and that the abortion occurred successfully. In the event Mifepristone has not worked, as determined by an ultrasound during the follow-up visit, a woman will discuss her options with her provider.
For women considering using the abortion pill but who would like to meet in person with a registered nurse or trained counselor to discuss personal questions, we recommend visiting one of our three Support Circle clinics in San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City. All appointments are confidential and free.