“Abortion pill” is the common name for using two different medications to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.
First, you take a pill called mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks progesterone from your own body, preventing pregnancy from growing.
Then take the second medication, misoprostol, immediately or up to 48 hours later. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It is something like having a very intense and bulky period, and the process is very similar to that of an early spontaneous abortion. If you do not have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medication, call your nurse or doctor.
Your doctor or nurse will administer both medications to you at the health center. When and where you will take them will depend on state laws and the policies of your health center. Your doctor or nurse will give you detailed instructions on where, when and how to take the medications. You can also receive some antibiotics to prevent infections.
How effective is the abortion pill?
The abortion pill is very effective. The effectiveness depends on how advanced your pregnancy is when you take the medication.
For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works between 94 and 98 out of 100 times.
For people who are between 8 and 9 weeks pregnant, it works between 94 and 96 out of 100 times.
For people who are between 9 and 10 weeks pregnant, it works between 91 and 93 out of 100 times.
The abortion pill usually works, but if you do not, you can take more medications or have an abortion at the clinic to complete the abortion.
When can I take the abortion pill?
Generally, you can get a medical abortion up to 70 days (10 weeks) after the first day of your last period. If 71 days or more have passed since the first day of your last period, you may have an abortion at the clinic to terminate your pregnancy.
Why do people choose the abortion pill?
The type of abortion you choose depends on your personal preference and your situation. With medical abortion, some people like that it is not necessary to undergo a procedure in a doctor’s office. You can abort your medication at home or in another comfortable place that you choose. You can decide who you want to be with during your abortion, or you can do it alone. Because medical abortion is similar to a miscarriage, many people feel it is more “natural” and less invasive.
Before you take the abortion pill, you’ll meet with your nurse, doctor, or health center staff to talk about whether abortion is the right decision for you, and what your abortion options are. You’ll get an exam and lab tests, and you may get an ultrasound to figure out how far into your pregnancy you are.
Your nurse or doctor will let you know if there’s anything else you need to do to prepare for your abortion. They’ll give you written instructions on how to take your pills. You will have access to a caring professional through the process — you’ll get a number you can call 24/7 if you have any questions or concerns.
You’ll have a lot of bleeding and cramping after you take the second medicine, so plan ahead to make the process more comfortable. You can be at home, or wherever is comfortable for you to rest. You may also want to have someone you trust with you (or nearby) that you can call for support if you need anything.
Stock up on maxi pads, food, books, movies, or whatever you like to help pass the time, and a heating pad for cramps. Make sure you have some pain medicine — but don’t take aspirin because it can make you bleed more.
What happens during a medication abortion?
The abortion pill process has several steps and includes two different medicines.
First, you take a pill called mifepristone. This medicine stops the pregnancy from growing. Some people feel nauseous or start bleeding after taking mifepristone, but it’s not common. Your doctor or nurse may also give you antibiotics to take to prevent infection.
The second medicine is called misoprostol. You’ll either take the misoprostol right away, or up to 48 hours after you take the first pill — your doctor or nurse will let you know how and when to take it. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus.
For most people, the cramping and bleeding usually starts 1-4 hours after taking the misoprostol. It’s normal to see large blood clots (up to the size of a lemon) or clumps of tissue when this is happening. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage. (If you don’t have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medicine, misoprostol, call your nurse or doctor.)
The cramping and bleeding can last for several hours. Most people finish passing the pregnancy tissue in 4-5 hours, but it may take longer. The cramping and bleeding slows down after the pregnancy tissue comes out. You may have cramping on and off for 1 or 2 more days.
You can take pain medicine like ibuprofen about 30 minutes before you take the second medicine, misoprostol, to help with cramps. You can also take anti-nausea medicine if your doctor or nurse gives it to you. Don’t take aspirin, because it can make you bleed more.
It’s normal to have some bleeding and spotting for several weeks after your abortion. You can use pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup — whatever’s the most comfortable for you. But your nurse or doctor may recommend you use pads for the first few days after the abortion so you can track how much you’re bleeding.
The last step is a follow up with your nurse or doctor. You may go back into the health center for an ultrasound or blood test. Or you’ll get a pregnancy test to take at home, followed by a phone call with your nurse or doctor. These tests will make sure the abortion worked and that you’re healthy.
In the unlikely case that the abortion doesn’t work and you’re still pregnant, your doctor or nurse will discuss your options with you. You may need another dose of medication or to have an in clinic procedure to complete the abortion.
How does a medication abortion feel?
For most people, medication abortion feels like having an early miscarriage. You might have:
- lots of cramping and aches in your belly
- very heavy bleeding with large clots (If you don’t have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medicine, misoprostol, call your nurse or doctor.)
- an upset stomach and vomiting (Your doctor or nurse may give you medicine to help with nausea.)
- mild fever (99-100° F) or chills on the day you take the misoprostol (If you have a fever after the day you take the misoprostol pills, call your doctor or health center right away.)
To help ease pain and make you more comfortable, you can:
- Take pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Don’t take aspirin because it can make your bleeding worse.
- Put a heating pad or hot water bottle on your belly.
- Take a shower.
- Sit on the toilet.
- Have someone rub your back.
What is the abortion pill?
The abortion pill is in fact two medicines. The first medicine ends the pregnancy and is named mifepristone. It works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.
The second medicine, misoprostol makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.