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What's the Difference Between Emergency Contraception and the Abortion Pill (RU-486)?

Are emergency contraception pills the same as RU-486? If I'm already pregnant and take emergency contraception, will it harm the fetus?

Answer

Mifepristone, or RU-486 (Mifeprex®), often referred to as "the abortion pill," is marketed as a medication used to terminate, or abort, early pregnancies. It is available by prescription only and is usually used as part of a multistep process that involves at least two different doctor visits and two different medications.
 
Mifepristone is only approved for use through day 49 of a pregnancy, as determined by the healthcare provider, and it works by stopping the development of a pregnancy.
 
Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs, such as Plan B One-Step™ and Next Choice®) are marketed as medications used to help prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. ECPs work primarily by stopping or delaying ovulation, or preventing fertilization of the egg if ovulation has already occurred.
 
At times, they may also alter the lining of the uterus, making it less receptive to a fertilized egg and interfering with implantation. In addition, they may thicken the cervical mucus, which can prevent sperm from traveling through the uterus and affect their survival.
 
Emergency contraceptive pills will have no effect on an established, implanted pregnancy. There is one exception, which is ulipristal (ella®), a prescription-only emergency contraception. Although the available data is vague, it is likely that ulipristal might be able to disrupt an established pregnancy, based on the way it works and on its similarities to mifepristone (also known as RU-486 or "the abortion pill").
 
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