Plan B: Is It Abortion?

Think you might be pregnant and are considering Plan B, or the Morning After Pill, as an emergency contraceptive? If you’re wondering about the ethics of these pills, or want to know more about how it works, keep reading.

We want to explain what Plan B is and how it works so you can make an informed decision about your possible pregnancy. Please note, LWC does not offer emergency contraception, nor do we refer for or perform abortions or provide abortion pills.

What Is Plan B?

Plan B is one type of emergency contraceptive. Women typically use it after unprotected sex or after the failed attempts of another birth control method: a condom breaks, a dose of birth control gets missed, etc. The drug is available over-the-counter in most drugstores. A prescription is not required, and anyone of any age can buy it in-store or online. It typically costs $15 to $50, depending on the brand and where you buy it.

How Does Plan B Work?

How Plan B works is dependent on when a woman takes it. Therefore, before explaining how it works, it’s important to understand a few key terms within a woman’s monthly cycle: ovulation, fertilization, and implantation.

  • Ovulation occurs during the midpoint of a woman’s cycle when an egg is released from her ovaries.
  • Fertilization occurs after intercourse when a sperm enters a woman’s released egg. This is also called “conception.”
  • Implantation occurs when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall.

Research suggests that Plan B primarily interferes with the ovulation stage of pregnancy. It does this by containing a high dosage of levonorgestrel, a hormone that essentially mimics progesterone. Progesterone is naturally produced in a woman’s body and gets released after ovulation to thicken the wall of the uterine lining to prepare for a fertilized egg and also maintain a pregnancy. If there is no fertilized egg, progesterone levels drop and your menstrual period begins.

Progesterone is found in both Plan B and birth control pills. However, Plan B is less effective when used routinely, and it should not be relied upon as a primary form of birth control. The medication also contains a high concentration of levonorgestrel, which can lead to negative side effects.

Is Ella the Same?

Not exactly. Ella is another brand of emergency contraception that contains ulipristal acetate. Ella is only available by prescription, and it is recommended to take only once during a menstrual cycle. Taking Ella with other contraception can cancel the effectiveness of both.

Similar to Plan B, Ella may interfere with ovulation and reduce the chance of fertilization. Unlike Plan B, Ella is a chemical cousin to the “abortion pill” (mifepristone). Both Ella and mifepristone share the progesterone-blocking effect of disrupting the embryo’s attachment to the uterus, causing the embryo to cease thriving. 

How Effective Is Plan B?

If taken within the recommended 72 hours (three days) of unprotected sex, Plan B has a 56% to 89% chance of preventing pregnancy. Experts say that the medication does not stop an active pregnancy, and the side effects it may have on an unborn baby are not well researched. For these reasons, a woman should not take the drug if she suspects she is already pregnant.

Need Help Making the Right Decision?

Plan B generally works by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. However, it may also prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus and continuing to develop. This may cause the loss of that life.

If you would like support in making a decision about your unplanned pregnancy, we have friendly and trained staff who would love to speak with you about your options. All our services are free of charge and confidential.

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This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional counseling and/or medical advice.

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