Morning After Pill and The Abortion Pill (RU-486): What’s the Difference?

Medicine– Bailey Z. and Molly H.


When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, many women desire to learn about their medical options. Before moving forward with any medical procedure or medication, it’s important to understand what is available, how each medication works, and what the risks/side effects are for each option. There is a difference between the Morning After Pill and the Abortion Pill (RU-486).


Morning After Pill

The Morning After Pill is advertised as an “emergency contraceptive”. If used 72 hours (and in rare cases up to 4 days) after unprotected sex it may prevent a woman from becoming pregnant1. Morning after pills such as Plan B-One Step and Take Action contain Levonorgestrel, a hormone that acts to prevent ovulation or stop the fertilization of an egg2.

Side effects may include: nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, tiredness, diarrhea, dizziness, breast pain, headache, and menstrual changes.

If a woman is already pregnant the Morning After Pill will not work.


Ella, recently released, is a stronger emergency contraceptive that can be used up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Ella works by releasing ulipristal acetate, either preventing the release of an egg or by preventing the attachment of an embryo into the lining of the uterus. Unlike the Levonorgestrel pills, Ella requires a prescription from a doctor.


The Abortion Pill (RU-486)

RU-486, more commonly known as the Abortion Pill, is a medical abortion procedure and is designed “to end a pregnancy through 70 days gestation” or 10 weeks from first day of last menstrual cycle.4

The Abortion Pill protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration allows this type of abortion to take place up to 10 weeks after the first day of a woman’s last period and “must be ordered, prescribed and dispensed by or under the supervision of a healthcare provider who meets certain qualifications…and may only be dispensed in clinics, medical offices, and hospitals by or under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider.”5

The two medications, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, are taken 24 to 48 hours apart in order to terminate the pregnancy. Mifepristone acts to block the body from making progesterone, a hormone essential to pregnancy. It “causes the lining of the uterus to break down, ending the life of the developing embryo and preventing your pregnancy from continuing… [Misoprostol] is taken to cause the uterus to contract and expel the embryo, embryonic sac, and lining of the uterus,”6 therefore ejecting the developing baby.

Side effects may include: heavy cramping, vaginal bleeding (if severe, then must be remedied with a surgical procedure), nausea, weakness, fever/chills, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and dizziness in the first one to two days after taking the two medicines.7

The Abortion Pill (RU-486) is not always 100% effective. You may need to schedule a follow up with your doctor to ensure that the abortion was successful.


Abortion Pill Reversal

So what happens if you take the first pill and then change your mind? Luckily, there is a procedure called the Abortion Pill Reversal, which can reverse the effects of Mifepristone. If you have begun the first of the two steps of the abortion pill and have changed your mind, call this hotline immediately for assistance: (877) 558-0333 or visit http://abortionpillreversal.com for more information.8

No woman should ever have to face a pregnancy decision alone. Schedule an appointment with ABC Women’s Center today to speak with a staff member regarding your pregnancy options.


  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20070124182515/http://www.fda.gov/cder/foi/label/2006/021045s011lbl.pdf
  2. http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/plan-b#1
  3. http://www.ellanow.com/pdf/ella-brochure.pdf
  4. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/
  5. http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/abortion-pill/
  6. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm492705.htm
  7. http://abortionpillreversal.com/page/9-FAQs/#morningafterpill