Differences between abortion pills and emergency contraception

On May 2, Politico released a leaked Supreme Court draft that expressed the court’s intention to strike down Roe vs. Wade. This ruling, if made official, will allow states to decide how to advance their abortion laws. Currently, 13 states currently have trigger laws that would allow for a complete ban on abortion, if deer be reversed. At present, abortion is still legal, but with these rights in question, it is important to equip yourself with all the information available, including your options.

This task can seem overwhelming, especially if you are in a position where you need abortion care, but there are resources available to you other than going to a clinic in person. Plan C, a website run by the National Women’s Health Network, allows you to locate abortion pills that you can take from the comfort of your own home. The organization researches and compiles information about safe options, both online and in person, for obtaining abortion pills in all 50 states.

Different from the Plan B pill, which is a form of emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, “Plan C” usually refers to mifepristone and misoprostol – aka abortion medication. Medical abortions are safe according to Dr. Mary Jacobson, MD, board-certified OB-GYN and chief medical officer of Alpha Medical, and Dr. Sheila Attaie, DO family physician and member of Physicians for Reproductive Health. and effective (Attaie says it’s even safer than taking Tylenol). To learn more, here’s everything you need to know about the differences between abortion pills and emergency contraception.

Where To Get Abortion Pills Vs. Plan B

If you need access to abortion medication, you have several options. Jacobson explains that, first of all, it’s important to know your state’s requirements for a doctor’s ability to prescribe abortion medication for you. “Many states have specific abortion requirements that are not evidence-based and create barriers to clinician and patient access to medical abortion,” Jacobson told Bustle. “Most of these laws apply to both drugs and [procedure abortion]. Providers must comply with mandatory waiting periods, parental notification, gestational age limits, and Department of Health reports as required.

For specific requirements in your state, you can visit Ineedana, a comprehensive website where patients can find local options for medications and abortion, as well as information about the exact restrictions in their state. The site only uses your age, zip code and time since your last period, so no personally identifying information is needed.

While these requirements exist in some states, there are ways to legally obtain abortion pills in every state, Attaie says. “A person can get abortion pills from their doctor or an advanced practice clinician, through telemedicine, or other trusted online platforms and pharmacies depending on what state you live in,” Attaie says. “To find abortion pills at in-person clinics, people can visit Ineedana. To find abortion pills online, people can visit Plan C. … To find information or advice on self-management of a miscarriage or abortion, people can call the helpline on miscarriages and abortion.

Unlike Plan C, Plan B pills can be purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies nationwide, as well as at family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood. There are also online pharmacies, like wisp and Nurx, that ship Plan B pills to your doorstep. Planned Parenthood and most online pharmacies also accept insurance, making it a cheaper option than buying over-the-counter at a pharmacy. It is important to note that there is another type of emergency contraception called ella, but it must be prescribed by a doctor.

When to Use Abortion Pills Vs. Plan B

If you need an abortion and are considering self-directed abortion, you will want to understand how to use the pills correctly and safely. According to Jacobson, mifepristone and misoprostol can be taken by pregnant patients for up to 11 weeks, starting with the mifepristone oral tablet. The patient will complete the process by either putting two of the misoprostol pills between the gumline and the cheek, or inserting four pills vaginally, between six and 72 hours later. If the pregnancy is between 63 and 77 days, it is recommended to take a second dose of misoprostol four hours after the first dose, to increase effectiveness.

Attaie shares that it is possible to take the series of abortion pills later, if the pregnancy is not detected before 11 weeks, adding that the World Health Organization (WHO) approves the use of abortion drugs until to 12 weeks, while the FDA currently approves use for up to 10 weeks. As long as you take the pills with proper medical advice or supervision, medical abortion is 95-99% effective.

Unlike longer timelines for medical abortion, the single Plan B pill is most effective (75% to 89% effective, according to Planned Parenthood) when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It can be taken up to five days later, but the effectiveness decreases considerably.

How Abortion Pills Work Vs. How Plan B Works

The process of achieving a successful pregnancy through medical abortion is relatively simple. “The first pill, mifepristone, works by blocking the pregnancy hormone and preventing the pregnancy from continuing,” says Attaie. “The second series of [four] the pills, called misoprostol, cause the uterus to cramp, the cervix to open, and the uterus to empty safely. The process is complete once all five pills are taken in the correct order and on time, and Jacobson reports that less than 1% of patients need medical attention for excessive bleeding.

As for what to expect once you start taking the pills, Jacobson says some cramping and bleeding will start one to four hours after taking the four misoprostol pills, and most patients pass pregnancy tissue. in four to five hours. You may also experience cramping for one to two days after the uterus is emptied. Jacobson also recommends having pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, on hand to help with the pain caused by the cramps. It is also important to note that medical abortion does not impact your ability to get pregnant again and you will be fertile again on your next menstrual cycle. If you choose to have sex after the process (which is safe after 72 hours), be sure to use protection.

Plan B pills work very differently from Plan C. The Plan B pill is taken as a single dose and serves as emergency contraception, which means it prevents pregnancy before it happens. Plan B contains a hormone called levonorgestrel and sometimes causes side effects like mild cramps, upset stomach, or a slight change in your next period. Plan B may not work for people over 165 pounds, and it may not work for people over 195 pounds, so alternative methods may need to be considered.


Dr. Mary JacobsonMD, Board Certified OB-GYN and Chief Medical Officer of Alpha Medical

Dr. Sheila AttaieDO family physician and associate with Physicians for Reproductive Health

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Dr. Mary Jacobson’s title and the name of the second set of pills a patient should take during a medical abortion. It has been updated.

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