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The morning after pill is very different from the abortion pill or any other kind of pregnancy termination. However, some people are confused about these differences, especially as some media coverage can be unclear.
The morning after pill is not a type of abortion. It is actually a type of emergency contraception. Contraceptives stop you from getting pregnant, but they can’t do anything if you are already pregnant. An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy after you have conceived.
The morning after pill or emergency pill is a type of contraception that can be taken up to 72 hours after you have sex. Since it is taken after sex, some people believe that it can end a pregnancy. However, it actually works in the same way as the contraceptive pill. It contains a higher dose of the same hormones so that it can act quickly.
The morning after pill can stop you from getting pregnant by preventing you from ovulating. You can only get pregnant if there is a mature egg available for the sperm to fertilise. Since it takes a while for the sperm to reach the eggs after you have sex (and you may not be ovulating anyway), it is possible to prevent most pregnancies by taking the emergency pill within 72 hours.
However, if you take emergency contraception too late, you could already have conceived. The morning after pill can’t help if you are already pregnant.
If you do get pregnant because you had unprotected sex or your contraception failed, then you can have an abortion to end the pregnancy.
Medical abortions involve taking two pills to end the pregnancy. It is this type of pregnancy termination that is most often confused with the morning after pill, but the drugs that are used and their effects are completely different. The abortion pills block the effects of pregnancy hormones and stimulate the womb to contract, a bit like during a period.
Surgical abortions can also be performed to remove the pregnancy using suction or special instruments. Both types of pregnancy termination can end a pregnancy and ensure that there is no tissue left behind in the womb. However, unlike emergency contraception, they won’t interfere with ovulation at all.
If you have had unprotected sex or a problem with your contraception in the last 72 hours then you should take the morning after pill as soon as possible. The sooner you take it, the more effective it will be. It is always better to prevent a pregnancy than to end one, as the risk of side effects is much lower. It is also much easier to use contraception than to have an abortion.
However, if you have missed a period and had a positive pregnancy test, then the morning after pill can’t help. If you’re considering pregnancy termination then you should make an appointment at the 132 Healthwise clinic to get personalised advice. The doctor will help you to explore your options, including medical and surgical terminations.
If you’ve had to take the morning after pill or have a pregnancy termination, then it can also be a good idea to consider how you can prevent needing them again in the future. Ask your doctor for contraception advice to find a form of protection that works well for you.