Plan B and the abortion pill — what’s the difference?

These two seemingly similar pills are actually quite different. If you think you might be pregnant or recently had an unexpected positive pregnancy test, you may be wondering about the differences in these medications.

North Care Women’s Clinic is here to help! 

What is Plan B and how does it work?  

Plan B, or “the morning-after pill,” is an over-the-counter medication that can be used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex.1 Plan B is typically effective in preventing viable pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of sex. 

Plan B uses a three-step process of preventing viable pregnancies that go as follows:

  1. Prevents ovulation, which will keep the egg from being released
  2. If the egg has already been released, Plan B will keep the egg from being fertilized.
  3. If the egg has already been fertilized, Plan B will prevent it from implanting into the uterus by altering the uterine lining

The main fact to note here is that Plan B does not end pregnancies that have already been implanted in the uterus. If you take Plan B and already have a viable pregnancy, the medication will not harm a developing fetus.2

Does Plan B have side effects? 

Plan B may result in the following side effects:

  • heavy bleeding
  • nausea
  • pain in the abdominal area
  • exhaustion
  • headaches
  • dizziness1

What is the abortion pill and how does it work? 

The abortion pill, also known as a medical abortion, is a two-pill abortion process that utilizes the drugs Mifepristone and Misoprostol.3

These medications are typically effective in ending a pregnancy in the first 10 weeks of gestation.

Unlike Plan B, the abortion pill ends a pregnancy that has already been implanted in the uterus and begun developing

The first medication, Mifepristone, prevents the body from producing the hormone called progesterone, which is necessary for pregnancy to develop and grow. Once the pregnancy has ended, Misoprostol is prescribed to force the pregnancy from the uterus through contractions.

Women can expect to experience intense cramping and heavy bleeding as the body expels the pregnancy tissue.  

Does the abortion pill have side effects? 

Yes. In addition to cramping and heavy bleeding, women might experience the following side effects when taking the abortion pill:

  • nausea
  • weakness
  • fever and chills
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness3 

Along with these side effects, some women may experience severe health risks from the abortion pill, including sepsis, infection, and hemorrhaging. These conditions are potentially fatal if left untreated.3  

What do I need to do before I take the abortion pill?

The abortion pill can be accompanied by serious health risks and it’s important to undergo the necessary screenings before deciding which type of abortion is right for you. 

We recommend scheduling the following pre-abortion screenings:

  • Lab-quality pregnancy testing
  • An ultrasound scan
  • STD/STI testing
  • A medical consultation with a qualified healthcare professional

Where can I go for free pre-abortion screenings?

If you’re experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, the last thing you need to worry about is the cost of extra procedures and tests! That’s why North Care Women’s Clinic provides all of our services at no cost to you!

Schedule your appointment today for free lab-quality pregnancy testing, an ultrasound scan, STD testing, and a medical consultation! 


  • “Plan B One-Step.” FDA drug label,, March 15, 2021.
  • “Emergency Contraceptive (Plan B/Morning After Pill).” UConn Student Health and Wellness. Medical Care & Pharmacy., March 15, 2021.
  • “MIFEPREX® (mifepristone)” FDA drug label,, March 15, 2021.
  • “Cytotec® misoprostol tablets.” FDA drug label,, March 15, 2021.