For information about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health in Victoria

Is Emergency Contraception the same as Abortion Pills?

on 31 Jan 2023 5:26 AM
Image split diagonally in half, one side shows a hand holding a blister pack with 2 pills, the other shows a larger empty blister pack

Emergency contraception and medical (medication) abortion are often confused, with many people thinking that emergency contraception is the same as an early medical abortion. But there’s a big difference between the emergency contraception pill and medication abortion pills.

Essentially, emergency contraception pills are used to prevent a pregnancy whilst the medication abortion pills are used to end a pregnancy.

Emergency contraception pills

The emergency contraceptive pill works by stopping or delaying when your ovaries release an egg. It is up to 85% effective. They are most effective if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception pills may not work if you:

In Australia, there are two options available:

Ulipristal acetate is more effective than Levonorgestrel, but only Levonorgestrel is safe to take when breast or chest feeding.

Emergency contraception pills are directly available from pharmacists. You do not need a prescription.

Medication abortion pills

Medical (medication) abortion is a safe and legal non-surgical method to end a pregnancy. Before you can have a medication abortion, you will need to have a blood test and ultrasound scan to confirm the pregnancy.

Medication abortion is a two-stage process. The first stage involves taking a tablet (mifepristone) which blocks the hormone that is needed for the pregnancy to continue. This is followed by a second medication (misoprostol) which expels the pregnancy from the body.

The medication abortion pills have a high success rate of working – up to 98% effective in ending an early pregnancy. Medication abortion is only available up until 9 weeks of pregnancy. In Australia, surgical abortion is required after 9 weeks.

Medication abortion pills are available from (some) GPs, private abortion clinics, (some) public hospitals and (some) community health and sexual health clinics. A prescription is required for this medication.

If you're worried about an unplanned pregnancy, or if you need support finding Emergency Contraception or Medication Abortion services, please call us on 1800 696 784 (weekdays, 9am - 5pm) or search for services online