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What Is the Difference Between RU-486 and the Morning After Pill?

With so much information out there about contraception and abortion procedures, it can be difficult to keep track of it all. This has led to some confusion about the differences between the abortion pill (RU-486) and the morning after pill. While there is still some debate about how the morning after pill compares to RU-486 in terms of what it does, these two forms of medication generally serve different purposes. Before taking any further steps regarding these medications, it’s important to know the difference between the abortion pill and the morning after pill.

Do you have questions about emergency contraception and how it compares to the abortion pill? Avenue Women’s Center is here to provide you with accurate information. Through a private consultation, one of our expert staff can discuss these differences in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. If you suspect you may be facing an unexpected pregnancy, find out today with a free medical-grade pregnancy test, accurate just ten days after possible conception. Call, text, chat, or email us for an appointment today!

What Is the Morning After Pill?

This hormonal contraceptive is generally taken 72 hours after unprotected intercourse or contraception failure, and it is often used to prevent an unexpected pregnancy. Some of the names it may be sold under are Plan B One-Step and Aftera, which are said to contain levonorgestrel, or ella, which typically contains ulipristal acetate. It should be noted that morning after pills are backup forms of birth control, and they are not intended to be used as a primary method of contraception.

Morning after pills are a type of medication that typically work to block an unexpected pregnancy from happening by delaying or preventing ovulation. There is still some debate as to whether or not the morning after pill inhibits a fertilized egg from implanting, as well as the effectiveness of emergency contraception such as Plan B.

As with most contraceptive methods, the morning after pill can fail even with perfect use, and it does not offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases. You may also want to use caution and check with a healthcare provider to ensure you do not have any of the following conditions:

  • An allergy to the components of the morning after pill
  • Use of certain medications that would decrease the pill’s effectiveness

If you meet with any of the above criteria, it’s typically not recommended that you take the morning after pill. Potential side effects of the morning after pill may last a few days, and these may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bleeding between periods or heavier menstrual bleeding
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramps

The persistence of any of these side effects means you may want to schedule an appointment with a doctor. If side effects worsen, then please do not hesitate to call 911.

What Is the Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill, also known as RU-486, is often used as an early pregnancy termination method. This may be referred to as a medical abortion. Since it does not require surgery or anesthesia, some women may experience the abortion at home. However, a follow-up visit with a healthcare provider is usually required afterwards.

In most cases, a woman may be given mifepristone. This usually blocks the progesterone hormone, which in turn may thin the uterus and prevent implantation and growth of the embryo. The mifepristone may be taken at a doctor’s office, or commonly, clinics allow the misoprostol to be taken at home within the next few hours or days. This usually causes the uterus to contract and expel the product of conception through the vagina.

Before you move forward with a medical abortion, it’s recommended you gather more information first. The abortion pill may not be administered to you if:

  • Have been pregnant for more than nine weeks
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • There’s a risk of an ectopic pregnancy
  • Have a bleeding disorder or an uncontrolled seizure disorder
  • Take blood thinners or steroid medications
  • Have an allergy to medication used
  • Cannot make follow-up visits with a doctor

There may be side effects to the abortion pill, and these may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

Additional side effects to look out for are: 

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Severe abdominal or back pain
  • Fever lasting more than 24 hours
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

Women typically need to follow-up with a doctor after a medical abortion, but if any of these symptoms worsen or persist, call 911 or seek medical attention right away.

For any questions you may have about the morning after pill or RU-486, Avenue Women’s Center is here to help. If you have concerns about a potential unexpected pregnancy, our caring client advocates can meet with you for a consultation to freely discuss your options. We’re here to provide accurate, helpful information to all our clients at no cost! Contact us to receive more unexpected pregnancy information today!



Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.


The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.