The rules surrounding abortion have changed greatly, and knowing what is allowed and what is not varies from state to state. Depending on where you live, many options are available if you decide to seek an abortion. In addition to surgical options, there is the morning-after pill and abortion by medication. To understand the difference between the two, you must first look at how — and when — they both work. Here's what you need to know.
How They Work
The morning-after pill (also known as emergency contraception or EC) works by preventing ovulation or fertilization of an egg after unprotected sex. The Mayo Clinic suggests that EC should not be used as a primary means of birth control but rather as an emergency backup method should other methods fail. They further state that the morning-after pill should be taken within 72 to 120 hours of unprotected sex. While the main ingredient in most types of EC is a synthetic hormone that prevents ovulation after unprotected sex, its effectiveness decreases over time. In addition, it is important to note that the morning-after pill cannot end a pregnancy once implantation has occurred.
Abortion by medication, on the other hand, is designed to end an unwanted pregnancy. The Cleveland Clinic states that abortion by medication is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy through the ninth week. Abortion by medication involves taking two pills — mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone is taken first and blocks progesterone, which is important for a viable pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken the following day and helps to expel the embryo from your uterus. Most patients experience period-like cramping during this process.
Neither method is available for over-the-counter use. You must see a medical professional for a prescription.
Both abortion by medication and the morning-after pill are considered safe methods when used correctly. It's important, however, to talk to your doctor beforehand so they can review your medical history and make sure these medications are right for you. There are a few issues that would prevent you from taking either method, including:
- History of blood clotting issues
- Have an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control
- Allergic to any ingredients in the medication
- Too far along in pregnancy
Communication with your doctor is key to determining the right method for your situation.
In summary, abortion by medication terminates an existing pregnancy, while the morning-after pill helps prevent one from happening in the first place. Both can be safe options depending on your individual circumstances. If you have any questions or concerns about either option, make sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before proceeding. They will be able to provide personalized advice based on your unique situation so that you can make an informed decision about your healthcare needs.