Sometimes there’s confusion about whether Plan B, Ella, and the Abortion Pill are the same, but they are in fact different medications. This article explains the difference between them, how each medicine works, and what the possible side effects and outcomes may be.

First let’s look at Plan B and Ella:

What and When? Both Plan B (One-Step) and Ella are emergency contraceptives (EC’s). They are intended to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, birth control failure, or forced sex. Both EC’s are pills that are taken orally, and while the Plan B pill is recommended to be taken within 72 hours of sex, Ella is intended for use within 5 days of unprotected sex. Neither medication should be used as a routine form of birth control.

How? Plan B works primarily by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting, and Ella may prevent or postpone ovulation which reduces the chance of getting pregnant. Both medications may also prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus and continuing to develop, thus ending the life via an abortive effect.

Side Effects: Plan B and Ella both have very similar side effects including: nausea, headache, abdominal pain, cramping, dizziness, and tiredness. Plan B may also cause changes in your period.

What else should I know?While both medications have been reported to reduce the chances of pregnancy, their actual level of effectiveness is unsure at best.  Also, there aren’t any long-term studies on the safety of using Plan B frequently over long periods of time, and much is unknown about the safety of Ella – including its effect on women under the age of 18, already pregnant, or breast-feeding. The effects on pregnancies that continue after the use of Ella are unknown, but higher doses of Ella did cause abortions in pregnant animals and carries the same potential in humans. Plan B cannot disrupt an implanted pregnancy.

Now let’s talk about the abortion pill:

What and When? Mifeprex or Mifepristone is commonly referred to as the abortion pill (RU-486) and is the most common form of medical abortion. The first tablet (mifepristone) is taken orally and causes the death of the baby. Twenty-four to forty-eight hours later, misoprotosol tablets are taken. This drug causes cramping that expels the embryo or fetus. The abortion pill is approved by the FDA for use in women up to 70 days (10 weeks) after their last menstrual period.

How? The abortion pill blocks the effects of progesterone, which is a hormone that is necessary for the continuation of the pregnancy. It destroys the connection of the embryo with the uterus, causing his or her death.

Side Effects: Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe cramping, dizziness, headaches, fever, and chills are the most commonly reported side effects of the abortion pill.

What else should I know? Although medical abortions have a 93% to 98% rate of successfully terminating pregnancies, they are not without risks. Undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, possible life-threatening infection, and seeing embryonic parts expelled are some of the known risks associated with the abortion pill. Because provider reporting of complications is voluntary and women often choose to not disclose their abortion when seeking follow-up care, further information on adverse events is limited. Information is also lacking about the long-term mental health effects of medical abortion.

Though an unplanned pregnancy or the possibility of one is often accompanied by feelings of fear, desperation, and/or anger, it’s best not to rush into a decision to use emergency contraceptives or the abortion pill. Remember, the intensity of emotions tends to subside with time – so take a deep breath and give yourself the freedom to carefully weigh your options.