An increasingly common option for women considering abortion is the medical abortion pill. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of medication for abortion in 2000, thousands of women have successfully used this early abortion option to end a pregnancy.
If you are considering medical abortion, you may feel overwhelmed with questions about its safety, effectiveness, availability, and more. Here are the top eight things you need to know about the abortion pill.
- What is a medical abortion? What is the abortion pill?
When a woman needs an abortion, she generally has two options: in-clinic surgical abortion procedures or medication abortion.
Medical abortion, or “the abortion pill,” actually refers to two medications that are taken together to end a pregnancy. This option is generally available to women who are early in their pregnancy, often up to nine or 10 weeks. Women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant may need to consider an in-clinic abortion.
- What is the abortion pill called?
Women who choose pill abortion will be given two types of abortion pills:
- Mifepristone: The abortion pill Mifepristone is also commonly referred to as the Mifeprex abortion pill or the RU-486 abortion pill. This medication is taken at a clinic to begin the medical abortion process.
- Misoprostol: The Misoprostol abortion pill is typically taken at home to empty the uterus and complete the abortion.
While Mifepristone is the most common abortion medication, it is also possible to use a pill called Methotrexate for abortion. Methotrexate can be used within the first seven weeks of pregnancy and is given orally or as an abortion injection. However, this medication is not as commonly used in the United States because the RU486 abortion pill is generally more effective.
- How does the abortion pill work?
Medical abortion is a very personal process, and your abortion pill experience may vary based on a number of factors, including your individual circumstances, the clinic you choose and your state’s abortion laws. In general, here’s how the abortion pill works:
- Contact a healthcare provider. Before beginning the medical abortion procedure, you will need to schedule an appointment with your doctor or a health clinic to discuss your options and complete a physical exam. This exam will likely include an ultrasound to confirm your stage of pregnancy. Your doctor may determine that you are not eligible for a medicated abortion if you are more than 10 weeks into your pregnancy, or if you have an IUD or certain medical conditions. If abortion by pill is not an option for you, your doctor can help you explore other possibilities, including in-clinic surgical procedures. Depending on your state’s laws, you may need to return to the clinic later for your actual abortion procedure after a state-mandated waiting period.
- Take Mifepristone at the clinic. After completing the necessary physical exam and signing some consent forms, you can begin the abortion pill process by taking Mifepristone at the clinic. This medication works by blocking the hormone progesterone, allowing the lining of your uterus to break down so that the pregnancy cannot continue.
- Take Misoprostol at home. Your doctor will give you a medication guide, instructions, and other important information for how to take the abortion pill at home. This medication causes the uterus to empty and is typically taken 24–48 hours after returning home from the clinic. After taking Misoprostol, you will likely experience heavy bleeding and cramping for a few hours.
- Schedule a follow-up appointment. Within one or two weeks after the abortion is complete, it is important to return to the clinic for a follow-up ultrasound to ensure the abortion pill procedure was successful. In the unlikely event that you are still pregnant, you may need another dose of medication or an in-clinic abortion.
- How long does the abortion pill take?
Most women will experience heavy bleeding and cramping within a few hours of taking Misoprostol. These symptoms will begin to subside when the abortion is complete, but light spotting may continue for a few weeks.
For most women, the abortion is complete within a few days of taking the abortion pill. According to Planned Parenthood, more than half of women abort within four or five hours of taking the medication.
- How effective is the abortion pill?
Medical abortions are effective about 98 percent of the time, but you will need to return to the clinic for a follow-up visit to be certain that it worked properly. In the rare event that the medication was not successful, you may need to take another dose of the medication, or you may have to undergo an in-clinic abortion to end the pregnancy.
- Is the abortion pill safe?
In most cases, medical abortion is a safe and effective way to terminate pregnancy. However, there are some medical risks associated with this procedure, including allergic reaction, infection, blood clots in the uterus, incomplete abortion or failure to end the pregnancy.
You should start to feel better within a day of taking the abortion medication. If you are still in a lot of pain, have a fever or feel sick more than 24 hours after the abortion, you may have a serious infection, and you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.
In addition, the following symptoms could be a sign of a rare but serious complication:
- Uncontrollable bleeding for two or more hours
- Blood clots that are larger than the size of a lemon
- Severe abdominal pain or discomfort
- Chills and a fever after the day of the procedure
- Nausea, vomiting, or other gastrointestinal issues that last more than 24 hours
- Signs that you are still pregnant
Please read the following for more information about the risks and side effects of abortion.
- How much does the abortion pill cost?
Abortion pill costs can vary based on a number of factors, including the stage of your pregnancy, the clinic you choose, your insurance situation, and more. Some clinics determine the abortion pill cost on a sliding scale based on what you can afford.
In general, the cost of the abortion pill typically ranges from $300–$800, according to Planned Parenthood.
- Where can I get the abortion pill?
To find the abortion services you need, contact your private healthcare provider or a local clinic like Planned Parenthood. These professionals can provide the medications you need or tell you how to get the abortion pill safely.
Many women search for options to buy abortion pills online or to get the abortion pill over the counter. However, attempting a medicated abortion without a licensed medical professional is extremely dangerous. You should never order the abortion pill online or attempt to use over the counter abortion pills. The only way to ensure your abortion is completed safely and effectively is to work with an experienced medical professional.
It is important to have all of the abortion pill facts you need to make an informed abortion decision. To learn more about your unplanned pregnancy or abortion options, speak with a medical professional or licensed counselor.
If you have additional questions about medical abortion, the following resources can provide all of the abortion pill information you need: