Abortion or Morning After Pill- What's the Difference?

The morning after pill is an emergency form of contraception. You take it after having unprotected sex to stop pregnancy from occurring. Having an abortion is an option which allows you to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 

The morning after pill  

While it is often referred to as the morning after pill, you can take it up to 3-5 days after having unprotected sex. There are two different types, and how effective it depends on which one you take and when you take it. They work by delaying ovulation so that your ovaries cannot release an egg. 


Levonelle needs to be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. It's more effective the sooner you take it so it's recommended to do this right away within the first 24 hours when it is still 95% effective. 


EllaOne can be taken up to 120 hours after sex. Its effectiveness does not decrease so if it's been more than a day then ellaOne may be a better option than Levonelle.  

Where can I get the morning after pill? 

If you think you need emergency contraception, see your GP or pharmacist right away. You can also get the morning after pill from sexual health clinics. You'll be able to access it for free from a pharmacy after answering a series of questions or you can purchase it. We have both types of the morning after pill available to order online in advance but not for emergency use given the time-sensitive nature of the treatment. 

How do I know the morning after pill worked? 

After you take the morning after pill, your menstrual cycle will be altered. This is because the hormones contained in the pill delay ovulation so if your period is late, this isn't anything to worry about. If you don't have your period after 4 weeks of taking the morning after pill then see your GP. 


Having an abortion is a medical procedure which ends a woman's pregnancy. This is possible before the 24th week and involves either taking a pill or having a surgical procedure depending on how far along the pregnancy is. 

Within the UK, all women can get an abortion through the NHS in Scotland, England and Wales. Women's access to these services are limited in Northern Ireland but there is a charity called Marie Stopes where you can have the procedure done. 

When can I have an abortion? 

You can have an abortion up until 24 weeks. After this, the procedure is only considered in exceptional circumstances, for instance, if your own life is at risk. The type of abortion you will have depends on how long you've been pregnant for. 

10 weeks 

At the 10 week point or under, you will be given a pill which will terminate your pregnancy. In your first appointment, you will be given mifepristone which will interfere with your pregnancy hormones. After 24-48 hours you'll have a second appointment where you'll be given misoprostol which causes the womb lining to break down. 

The abortion pill, known as a medical abortion, is always given in a hospital or licensed clinic by a medical professional. It is illegal to purchase these medications online and use them by yourself at home. 

10-24 weeks

After 10 weeks of pregnancy, your option will be a surgical abortion. This can be done either by a vacuum method or through surgery under sedation or general anaesthetic. You'll usually be able to go home that same day. 

Where do I go for an abortion? 

If you have taken a pregnancy test and a doctor has confirmed that you are pregnant then you will need to inform your doctor that you wish to have an abortion so that they can refer you for an appointment. You can also seek advice from sexual health clinics who can let you know what to do next and what your options are. 
Should I have an abortion? 

There is no right or wrong answer; only what you feel is right for you. It's a big decision to make, so take your time and think it over. You will have the chance to talk to a counsellor about it if you feel you don't have people in your life that you can discuss your options with, or if you need impartial advice. One in three women have an abortion at some point in their lives; there is nothing to feel ashamed about. There are many reasons why women might choose to terminate their pregnancy and each of these reasons is as valid as each other.  

How long will I have to wait? 

If you wish to have an abortion you'll have an assessment at the clinic or with a doctor. They will talk over the decision with you to make sure it's what you want, discuss your options and find out how many weeks pregnant you are. After this, you'll usually have the abortion within 2 weeks. You can also have it privately which costs around £350 but you may get quicker access to treatment. 


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