With so much misinformation and biased opinions concerning emergency contraceptives, it’s difficult to know what to think. Emergency contraceptives (EC) prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or a contraceptive failure.
The “morning after pill”, the Plan B pill and the post-coital pill are all referring to the emergency contraceptive whose active ingredient is Progestin-only.
The Plan B pill is not the same thing as the abortion pill.
The Plan B pill does not terminate a developing, implanted embryo.
Successful pregnancy prevention is directly related to how fast EC is implemented.
Plan B does not impact your ability to have babies in the future.
The “morning-after pill” is safe to use even if you regularly take other birth control pills.
This article will provide easy-to-understand information that empowers individuals to make knowledge-based decisions concerning family planning.
What is Plan B?
Plan B, commonly referred to as the “morning-after pill” or post-coital pill, is a Progestin-only emergency contraceptive. It is used when traditional birth control methods prove ineffective. For instance, this pill is often used after a condom malfunction, a missed birth control pill, or an incident of unprotected sex.
Plan B’s active ingredient is the synthetic hormone Progestin. Women considering using the “morning-after pill” may wonder what the common side effects of Progestin are.
Side effects of Plan B
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), some mild side effects associated with the “morning-after pill” are as follows…
- Menstrual changes.
- Abdominal pain.
- Breast tenderness.
- Bladder infection.
Frequent urination is not a side effect of Plan B. However, bladder infections can cause frequent urination. If you have frequent urination, burning with urination, or abnormal urgency, contact your doctor. Since you may be experiencing a bladder infection, your doctor may need to prescribe an antibiotic.
How to know if Plan B worked?
Progestin’s primary method of pregnancy prevention is the delay of ovulation. Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg. The egg travels through a fallopian tube to the uterus, where it waits to be fertilized by the male sperm.
Progestin also causes a thickening of mucus, which prevents the sperm from getting to the egg. This thickening often prevents fertilization of the egg by the sperm.
If fertilization of the egg does occur even after Plan B use, the fertilized egg will be inhibited from attaching to the womb. This process of a fertilized egg attaching to the uterine wall is called implantation. Progestin does not work in preventing pregnancy if implantation has already occurred.
Women who use the Plan B pill may feel eager to know if it worked or not. However, the only way to know if the “morning-after pill” work is to watch for menstrual bleeding. If your period is delayed a week or more, pregnancy testing is recommended.
What is the abortion pill?
Many people are misinformed when it comes to birth control methods. The abortion pill is not the same thing as the “morning-after pill”. The active ingredients are completely different. Therefore, the method of prevention is also different.
The abortion pill, also known as medical abortion or chemical abortion, is a combination of two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol.
Mifepristone works by blocking the progesterone from its receptors. Progesterone is a natural hormone produced primarily in the ovaries. It has a vital role in supplying blood and nutrients to the developing embryo.
Misoprostol is used to induce labor. Mifepristone inhibits the continued development of embryonic cells, while Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo.
Side effects of the abortion pill
Unlike Plan B, medical abortions come with more significant and common symptoms. Typical symptoms that happen after taking the abortion pill are much like symptoms of a miscarriage.
The following symptoms can last anywhere from 9-16 days, although some women experience these symptoms for 30 days or more.
- Heavy spotting or vaginal bleeding.
- Severe cramping.
- Discharge of tissue and fluid.
How to know if the abortion pill worked
The body must expel the embryo, so bleeding, cramping, and discharge are indicators that the abortion pill worked. A follow-up appointment with the prescribing physician is recommended approximately 2 weeks after taking the pill. At that time, your physician may order an ultrasound to determine the results of the abortion pill.
Plan B vs Abortion pill: which one should you take?
Since Progestin works by preventing fertilization and implantation, this pill does not cause the termination of an implanted, developing embryo, unlike the medical abortion pill. Though the list of possible complications is long, many of those side effects are never experienced by women taking the Plan B pill. When compared to the abortion pill, the Plan B pill is less stressful for women, works very differently, and is safer.
When is it too late to take Plan B?
The Plan B pill must be used within 72 hours of intercourse. The sooner, the better! The first pill is taken as soon as the individual realizes the need. Another Plan B pill is taken 12 hours after the first.
The medical abortion pill can be taken at home up to 11 weeks gestation but needs to be an in-clinic procedure after 15 weeks gestation. Miscarriage is a risk for any pregnancy. Taking the Plan B pill does not increase that risk.
Can Plan B make you infertile?
The Plan B pill does not cause infertility. The “morning-after pill” is to be used for only one incident of unprotected sex. If another incident of unprotected intercourse occurs or contraceptive malfunction happens, the woman is at risk of becoming pregnant.
Can you take Plan B with birth control?
Since Plan B does not affect your regular birth control methods, it is safe to use while on regular birth control.
What are Plan B precautions?
Ectopic pregnancy is the greatest risk for taking Plan B. Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches outside of the uterus. When this happens, the fertilized egg can develop and grow in the fallopian tube or other places, rather than the uterus.
Severe abdominal pain is the main symptom of an ectopic pregnancy. If untreated, ectopic pregnancy can result in life-threatening internal bleeding. If abdominal pain is experienced after taking Plan B, contact your medical provider immediately.
Is Plan B the only EC available?
Plan B is not the only emergency contraceptive. What are other emergency contraceptives?
- Ulipristal acetate.
- Yuzpe method: less effective than others.
- Copper intrauterine device (IUDs).
Though there are other emergency contraceptives available, several of these options require a prescription, while Plan B is an over-the-counter medication.
Also, when making decisions concerning emergency contraceptives, it is important to remember that not all EC options work the same way, have the same side effects, or merit identical safety warnings. Therefore, if you think you may need an EC in the future, make sure you research your options before the emergency.
EC is not recommended for routine pregnancy prevention, but rather to be used as the name implies…for emergencies. Routine birth control measures are recommended as they are more effective and safer.
Let’s put it all together
In summary, the “morning after pill” is not the same thing as the abortion pill. Though many people unintentionally use the terminology interchangeably, the two pills have different active ingredients and address unwanted pregnancy in two very different ways.
The abortion pill is intended for use in the termination of pregnancy. Unlike the Plan B pill, which prevents ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. Therefore, Plan B will not work if you are already pregnant because it does not terminate the pregnancy. Remember, the greatest determinant of successful pregnancy prevention when using any emergency contraceptive is how quickly action is taken.
- Merck Manuals Professional Edition. Emergency Contraceptives (Emergency Contraception - Gynecology and Obstetrics - Merck Manuals Professional Edition).
- National Institute of Health. Plan B: levonorgestrel tablet.