FAQ

Pregnancy

How many days a month can I get pregnant?

You should know . . . It is not possible for a woman to get pregnant about 26 days a month. Many of the days when women take the morning-after pill, it is impossible to get pregnant anyway. This fact makes “effectiveness” statistics for emergency contraception look much better than they really are. 

What is the first sign of pregnancy?

A missed period is most common sign of a potential pregnancy. Click here for a list of more symptoms.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?
This is when the embryo is growing outside of a woman’s uterus, usually in her fallopian tube. This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus—most often in the fallopian tubes.  The cramping and abdominal pain that may result from the use of a morning-after pill can mask the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, which requires emergency care.

  • If the embryo is in the fallopian tube, the abortion pill won’t end the pregnancy and the embryo will continue to grow and could cause the tube to burst. Here’s the danger: The cramping and abdominal pain that are normal after the use of the abortion pill are a lot like the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. A woman might not realize until it’s too late that she needs to seek emergency care—and this puts her life at risk. If a woman has little or no bleeding after taking misoprostol, it could also be a warning sign for ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is an emergency—the woman’s doctor or the emergency room at the hospital should be contacted right away. The best option is for a woman to get an ultrasound before having a medical abortion.
Will the morning after pill end an ectopic pregnancy?
The morning-after pill won’t end an ectopic pregnancy. If you have severe abdominal pain three to five weeks after using the morning-after pill, or if you miss your next menstrual period, you should see your health-care professional to rule out a pregnancy (either ectopic or within the uterus). An embryo growing in a fallopian tube will require emergency care.
Will I need a follow up after taking the abortion pill?
Because of the potential for serious health risks, an abortion provider will typically schedule a follow-up visit to evaluate the woman’s health.

Morning After Pill

What is the morning-after pill?

The morning-after pill isn’t a single drug. There are two drugs that are used as emergency contraception:

1. Plan B One-Step ®

  • It’s a drug intended to be taken as soon as possible within the first 72 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure (for instance, if a condom tears) to prevent pregnancy.
  • It contains a high dose of a progesterone (levonorgestrel) that is found in many kinds of birth control pills.
  • At the dosage found in Plan B One-Step, levonorgestrel may work on rare occasion to prevent an embryo from implanting in the uterus (see below). 1
  • It is often referred to by the brand name that started it all—Plan B ® .
  • It’s also available in generic forms.

2. ella ®

  • This drug is supposed to be taken as soon as possible within 5 days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.
  • ella is the trade name of the drug ulipristal acetate.
  • It is chemically related to mifepristone (RU-486), the “abortion pill,” and works by a similar mechanism of action. 2
You should know . . . It is not possible for a woman to get pregnant about 26 days a month. Many of the days when women take the morning-after pill, it is impossible to get pregnant anyway. This fact makes “effectiveness” statistics for emergency contraception look much better than they really are. 3
How do they work?

Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, morning-after pill drugs could affect you in one of several ways:

1. Plan B One-Step

  • It may prevent ovulation: The egg will not be released to meet the sperm—so fertilization, sometimes known as conception, can’t occur.
  • It may affect the lining of your fallopian tubes so that sperm cannot reach the egg. This also prevents fertilization.
  • It may irritate the lining of your uterus. If an egg has already been released and fertilized by the sperm, this irritation could make it harder for the embryo to implant in your uterus. 4

2. ella

  • It may prevent ovulation: The egg will not be released to meet the sperm—so fertilization can’t occur.
  • It also acts to block progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries which helps a woman’s body sustain a pregnancy. This reduces the chances that an embryo would successfully survive and grow in the uterus.
Are there side effects?

Yes.You may experience several short-term side effects when taking Plan B One-Step.

These include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • irregular and unpredictable menstrual periods
  • cramping and abdominal pain—which might also be the sign of an “ectopic pregnancy” (see next question)
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • breast tenderness 5

Possible side effects for ella include:

  • headache
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irregular bleeding or spotting
  • cramping and abdominal pain—which might also be the sign of an ectopic pregnancy (see next question)
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
You should know . . . ella can function as “emergency contraception” when taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex because it’s on about the 5th day after ovulation and fertilization of the egg that the new baby begins to implant in the lining of the womb—but can’t because the uterine lining function is disabled by ella. The hormone progesterone is blocked by ella so the proteins needed to begin and maintain pregnancy are not produced. This is not a true contraceptive action (that is, it doesn’t prevent sperm and egg from joining in fertilization) but an abortifacient one. The same applies to Plan B if it prevents an embryo from implanting by irritating the lining of the uterus.
What is an ectopic pregnancy? And why does it matter?
  • This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus—most often in the fallopian tubes.
  • The morning-after pill won’t end an ectopic pregnancy.
  • If you have severe abdominal pain three to five weeks after using the morning-after pill, or if you miss your next menstrual period, you should see your health-care professional to rule out a pregnancy (either ectopic or within the uterus).
  • An embryo growing in a fallopian tube will require emergency care. 7
You should know . . . The cramping and abdominal pain that may result from the use of a morning-after pill can mask the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, which requires emergency care.
You should know . . . After the sperm penetrates and fertilizes the egg, 46 human chromosomes come together in a one-of-a-kind genetic design that determines a person’s eye and hair color, gender, skin tone, [ ] height and even the intricate swirl of the fingerprints.
You should know . . . The morning-after pill can’t guarantee that you won’t get pregnant, nor does it protect you from HIV/AIDS or other sexually-transmitted infections or diseases.
 
What happens if I use emergency contraception after fertilization?
  • The high dose of levonorgestrel found in Plan B One-Step may irritate the lining of your uterus. That irritation may keep the embryo inside you from implanting, ending its life.
  • With ella, the drug blocks progesterone, a hormone that helps your body maintain a pregnancy. While an embryo may have already been created, ella can keep it from implanting in your uterus and being sustained by your body, ending its life.
  • If either of these happens, an abortion will occur, because each human life begins as an embryo.8
So, how can I know if an egg has been fertilized?
  • That’s the problem—you can’t know.
  • TBut we do know that sperm can reach the fallopian tubes mere minutes after intercourse, and if an egg has already been released, fertilization could occur.
  • So, by the time you wake up on the “morning after,” a new human life may have already begun.
  • If that’s the case, using emergency contraception might cause a very early abortion.

The Abortion Pill

When can the medical abortion pill be done?

This method of abortion is only approved for use if it’s been 70 days or less since the first day of your last menstrual period. Doctors call this “LMP.” When did your last period begin? How many days has it been since then?

YOU SHOULD KNOW: If an abortion provider doesn’t follow the safety guidelines required by the FDA (and not all do), your health could be at significant risk.

How is a medical abortion done?

According to the official safety guidelines issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a medical abortion requires two office visits:

  1. At the first abortion-provider visit: A woman takes one mifepristone pill, also known by the brand name Mifeprex ®. This pill contains a drug that cuts off the supply of blood and nutrients to the developing embryo.
  2. 24 to 48 hours later: The woman will take another drug, misoprostol, also called Cytotec ®. This causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo
  3. Seven to fourteen days later: The woman will have a second visit with her abortion provider to confirm that the abortion is complete.
What happens next?

She should expect to have vaginal bleeding or spotting for an average of 9 to 16 days.

Up to 8 percent of women may experience some bleeding for 30 days or more.

Are there health conditions a woman needs to tell her doctor about?

Yes—a health-care professional should be made aware of any of these conditions, because a medical abortion is not safe for people who have:

  • high blood pressure • heart disease • bleeding problems • anemia • uncontrolled diabetes • an IUD in place •

SIDE EFFECTS According to the data collected by Micromedex, here’s what women who’ve taken these medications have experienced:

  • headache (up to 44%) • nausea (43–61%) • vomiting (18–26%) • diarrhea (12–40%) • fatigue (10%) • cramping & pain (96%)

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Because of the potential for serious health risks, an abortion provider will typically schedule a follow-up visit to evaluate the woman’s health.

What kind of track record does the abortion pill have?
  • The abortion pill is used in about 25% of early abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
  • Around 2 to 7 percent of women taking the abortion pill will need a surgical procedure either to stop persistent bleeding or because the abortion was not complete.
  • The FDA collects information about the drugs they approve to help people understand some of the risks they face in choosing certain treatments.

WARNING SIGNS If within the first 24 hours after taking mifepristone and misoprostol a woman experiences the following symptoms, she should contact her health-care professional right away:

  • heavy bleeding that soaks through two thick, full-size sanitary pads per hour for two hours
  • persistent stomach pain or discomfort
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea, with or without fever
  • fever of 100.4° or higher for more than four hours

These symptoms, even without a fever, may indicate a serious and possibly fatal blood infection.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Since September 2000, the FDA has tracked complications following medical abortions in the United States. In 2011, they reported:

  • Hospitalized–612 • Ectopic pregnancies–58 • Blood loss requiring transfusions–339 • Infections–256 • Severe infections–48 • Deaths–8

 

IT’S VERY IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN TO FOLLOW THE SAFETY GUIDELINES According to the FDA report, eight women have died from a severe bacterial infection in their bloodstream. • Seven of these women had the misoprostol inserted in their vagina and one used the drug orally. • Each of these women became ill very quickly and died from a fast-growing infection.

Are there any additional safety concerns to be aware of?
  • The abortion pill can mask symptoms of an ectopic pregancy, which can be very dangerous (see next section). • Some abortion providers recommend taking the misoprostol pill vaginally rather than orally. This is hazardous, as introduction of misoprostol directly into the reproductive tract has been associated with deadly infections.
  • A woman undergoing a medical abortion is typically recommended for a follow-up visit because of health risks and the possibility that, in the case of an incomplete abortion, the fetus may remain in the woman’s uterus. • If this method of abortion is used more than 70 days after LMP, the likelihood of an incomplete abortion increases, as does the risk of adverse health effects.
  • Ordering the abortion pill online is a dangerous option — there’s no way to be sure of what a woman’s getting.
  • Emergency medical situations may arise from a medical abortion. The symptoms can include continued bleeding, fainting, severe abdominal/pelvic pain, fever (chills, sweats). These can result from an incomplete abortion or infection. If there’s a need for emergency surgery, not all abortion providers have immediate access to a surgical facility
What’s an ectopic pregnancy?
  • This is when the embryo is growing outside of a woman’s uterus, usually in her fallopian tube. • If the embryo is in the fallopian tube, the abortion pill won’t end the pregnancy and the embryo will continue to grow and could cause the tube to burst. • Here’s the danger: The cramping and abdominal pain that are normal after the use of the abortion pill are a lot like the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. A woman might not realize until it’s too late that she needs to seek emergency care—and this puts her life at risk. • If a woman has little or no bleeding after taking misoprostol, it could also be a warning sign for ectopic pregnancy. • An ectopic pregnancy is an emergency—the woman’s doctor or the emergency room at the hospital should be contacted right away. • The best option is for a woman to get an ultrasound before having a medical abortion.

HERE’S WHY IT’S IMPORTANT • If the embryo is growing in a woman’s fallopian tube, the abortion pill won’t end her pregnancy. • The embryo would continue to grow, possibly causing the fallopian tube to burst (rupture), which might put the woman’s life at risk. • An ultrasound can detect an ectopic pregnancy, which could save the woman’s life.

YOU SHOULD KNOW: The abortion pill will not end an ectopic pregnancy, which could put a woman’s life at risk. An ultrasound can help detect such a pregnancy.

 

To find an approved MCN clinic for a free pregnancy screening and ultrasound click here.