The name Abortion Pill is most commonly used to reference the medications mifepristone and misoprostol taken to terminate the pregnancy of a developing baby.
Some individuals confuse the morning after pill or emergency contraception with the abortion pill. The two are not the same.
Methotrexate is another abortion-related medication possibly referred to as the abortion pill. In either of these inquiries, individuals asking about this medication are considering terminating their pregnancy.
If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you are not alone! Asking questions about the abortion pill is important to ensure you have all the information you need to know about your options. You can also ask questions about the medical, possible physical and emotional side effects of abortion, the abortion pill itself, and what resources are available to help you if you decide to keep your baby, give it up for adoption or continue with the termination of pregnancy.
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When should the abortion pill be taken?
The abortion pill is approved by the FDA for use to terminate a pregnancy during the first 10 weeks after your last menstrual period. This means that the abortion pill may be taken up to 70 days or a little over 2 months after the first day of your last period.
If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant and considering an abortion, you will need to look at surgical abortion procedure options because the embryo is too developed for these medications to terminate completely.
How effective is the abortion pill?
The abortion pill is fairly effective, failing about 2% to 8% of the time. The earlier in your pregnancy, the more likely it is to be successful with termination. The higher 8% failure rate is associated with taking abortion medications later in your pregnancy and possibly outside the intended approval period.
Approximately 2 to 4 individuals out of a 100 will discover a failed abortion attempt with a continuation of their pregnancy. If this is the case, you would need to return to the clinic for a second attempt at a medical abortion or more than likely, a surgical option.
Learn more about the abortion laws according to your state.
How much does the abortion pill cost?
The financial cost ranges from approximately $300 up to around $800. Factors that affect the cost of abortion include:
- Lab work
- Office visit
- Types of testing
- Region of country
If the abortion pill fails and your pregnancy continues, you will have to pay for a second abortion procedure.
How does the abortion pill work?
The first step is to discuss your options, learn about resources available to you, and learn about medical abortion in more detail. From there, you will go through a medical exam which includes the following:
- Medical history
- Lab work
- Physical exam
Following the medical exam, you will be asked to sign a liability release. Your abortion provider should give you a guide that explains the medication and termination process. The three-step abortion pill process includes the following:
- Take Mifepristone: A medication used to block the activity of progesterone. Progesterone is one of your pregnancy hormones that is necessary for the uterus’ ability to support a pregnancy. Mifepristone blocks the ability of your body’s progesterone to be recognized by the uterus, causing the lining of the uterus to break down and ending the life of the developing embryo.
- Take Misoprostol: This medication is taken to cause the uterus to contract and expel the embryo, embryonic sac, and lining of the uterus, expelling the developing baby. This process usually takes 24-48 hours and is often accompanied by heavy bleeding and strong uterine cramping.
- Return to Clinic: You will need to come back to the clinic for an exam 2 weeks later to confirm if the medical abortion was completely successful or not. *This is a very important step because if the abortion was not complete, any parts left behind could cause an infection and leave permanent effects.
How long does it take for the abortion to complete?
The second pill, Misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours after the first pill, Mifepristone, is taken. Approximately half will experience the heavy cramping and bleeding necessary to expel the embryo, uterus lining, and embryonic sac within the first five hours. The majority of women will complete the expulsion within a few days.
Your abortion provider will usually encourage you to watch the toilet for passing the blood and embryo tissue. Your provider will also schedule a time for a return visit to make sure that abortion is final.
This appointment usually occurs between 1 to 2 weeks after initiating the abortion process, but it could be as many as three weeks.
What should you expect during the medical abortion process?
Once you take the second regimen, Misoprostol, you should plan to experience heavy bleeding, cramping, and possibly other symptoms.
Although it is possible to experience some light bleeding before taking the second medication, the majority of heavy bleeding and cramping occurs after the second pill. Other symptoms or side effects you may experience include the following:
- Intense cramping
- Nausea (with or without vomiting)
- Abdominal pain separate from cramping
- Mild fever or chills
- Light lactation
The bleeding should mimic a very heavy period. You may notice blood clots and bodily tissue passing as well. Avoid using a tampon during this process and for a short time after termination. It is best to use overnight pads to absorb the blood and tissue that is expelled.
You should begin to feel better the next day, and continue to improve each of the next few days, unless you happen to be the percentage of women that experience adverse effects from the abortion attempt. If you experience any of the physical risks below, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
What are the risks of the abortion pill?
Like any procedure or medication, there are risks related to the abortion pill. Although rare, an incomplete abortion is a risk, which may lead to a second procedure with additional side effects.
Other medical abortion risks include:
- An allergic reaction
- Blood clots
- Heavier bleeding than expected
- A continued pregnancy
Although extremely rare, severe reactions to the medication can be fatal. An infection or ectopic pregnancy may be severe and even life-threatening. The abortion pill does NOT end or treat an ectopic pregnancy.
A Finland study found an association between abortion and elevated mortality rates. Therefore, it is imperative that you contact your abortion provider if you experience any of the following:
- Excessive bleeding that fills up more than two pads in an hour and occurs for two hours or more.
- Blood clots that occur for two hours or more
- A fever of 100.4°F or higher
- Nausea (with or without vomiting) for more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea for more than 24 hours
- Foul smelling discharge
- Pregnancy symptoms
- Extreme depression or suicidal thoughts
When should my period return?
Once the pregnancy is terminated, it is considered the end of a menstrual cycle. You should expect to have your period return within the next two months. It is rare for a period to be absent longer than two months.
Aftercare Following the abortion procedure
It is important for you to consult with your healthcare provider on an after abortion care treatment plan. Most will advise that you wait at least a week before engaging in sexual intercourse. This might get extended to two weeks depending on your circumstances.
If it was an unplanned pregnancy, you might need to think about abstaining from sexual intercourse again until you are ready for the outcome of the reproduction process. It is possible to experience ovulation and get pregnant again within the first month. Conception is possible if you engage in sex again, even during the first couple of weeks.
Cautions for those considering taking the abortion pill
Abortion is a personal choice, and like all medical and surgical procedures, it has side effects.
You should take caution before taking the abortion pill if:
- You are past the 10-week window
- You believe it is taking a baby’s life
- You are morally opposed to abortion
- Someone is forcing you to choose abortion
- You will refuse a surgical abortion if the medication fails
- You are taking blood clotting medication
- You have a blood clotting condition
- You are using an IUD
- You are emotionally unstable or have depression or anxiety
Emotional challenges are more likely for those who believe they are terminating a life. It is important that you talk with a professional in regards to your beliefs around getting an abortion.
What about Getting Pregnant in the Future?
Mifepristone and Misoprostol are not considered harmful to future fertility, according to the Food and Drug Administration or FDA. However, the long-term effects of these drugs have not been studied as extensively as the surgical procedures.
Last updated: July 15, 2019 at 9:26 am
Compiled using information from the following Sources:
1. Basu, Ranjan, et al., Mifepristone and Misoprostol for Medical Termination of Pregnancy: the effectiveness of a Flexible Regimen, Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care 29(3),(2003).
2. Grimes, David, “Risks of Mifepristone Abortion in Context, Contraception 71 (2005)
3. Hausknecht, R., “Mifepristone and Misoprostol for Early Medical Abortion: 18 months Experience in the United States, Contraception 61,(2003)
4. Misoprostol.org, Adverse Effects: Potential Problems with Misoprostol, Retrieved Dec 2016.
5. Planned Parenthood, “The Abortion Pill”, Retrieved Dec 2016.
6. ParkMed NYC, “Abortion By Pill Process, Retrieved Dec 2016.