What Is Ella, The Morning-After Pill That The FDA Just Approved?

Woot, woot! On Friday afternoon, the FDA approved ella, a new emergency contraceptive that can be taken five days after unprotected sex, for prescription-only sales. If the condom breaks, you are a victim of sexual assault, or any number of numerous situations where you’re doing the “No babies! No babies!” dance, you now have more morning-after pill options than ever before.

What do you need to know about ella — and Plan B, the existing emergency contraception? All the deets are after the jump.

  • Ella is approved for use up to five days after unprotected sex, while Plan B was only approved for use up to three days. This allows more time for ladies who have a pharmacist who says, “No way, Jose!” when asked to dispense the morning-after pill, or who live in the boondocks and have to travel to the nearest pharmacy.
  • The morning-after pills are not the same as the abortion pill. In fact, Plan B and ella are not the same.
  • Plan B is very similar to taking a high dosage of birth control pills and is more effective the sooner after unprotected sex that you take it. It can prevent or delay ovulation, prevent an egg from being fertilized, and prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted.
  • Ella blocks the hormone that is necessary for pregnancy to occur and its effectiveness does not fade during the five days during which it can be used.
  • The abortion pill, called mifepristone or RU-486, is expressly intended to end an existing pregnancy. It causes the placenta to separate and makes your uterus contract to abort the fetus.
  • In America, Plan B is available over-the-counter if you show your ID to prove you are over age 17 and is prescription-only for those under 17; ella will be prescription-only for everyone. In Canada, Plan B is available over-the-counter, but ella/ellaOne are not yet approved.
  • Ella has already been for sale in Europe under the name ellaOne.
  • With both ella and Plan B, the side effects are nausea, headaches and abdominal pain.

[New York Times]
[Wall Street Journal]
[Web MD]
[WebMD Glossary: Mifepristone]
[WebMD Glossary: Plan B]