Understanding a medical abortion
The abortion pill is also known as a medical abortion. There are two main types of abortions: medical abortions and surgical abortions. A medical abortion may be commonly called “the abortion pill” but it involves taking two types of abortion pills. These pills will terminate a pregnancy, and are not the same as what is commonly known as the “morning-after pill” or Plan B, which is designed to prevent pregnancy.
The first pill that you will take is mifepristone. The second is misoprostol (also known as Cytotec). The use of the two medications together increase the effectiveness of the abortion, and can reduce the duration of side effects.
You can obtain these medications through doctors and clinics that provide abortion services, like Planned Parenthood. You should never buy them online or on the black market. The cost of the medication depends on location and additional tests or follow-ups that may be necessary. According to Planned Parenthood, abortion procedures can cost up to $800. However, this cost fluctuates depending on the area where you live.
Who is eligible for the abortion pill?
Women who are under 10 weeks into their pregnancy are eligible to take the abortion pill. After 10 weeks, women who wish to terminate their pregnancy may opt for a surgical abortion.
Women with pre-existing medical conditions may not be eligible to take the abortion pill. Women who cannot receive the abortion pill include:
women who are not willing to have an aspiration (surgical abortion) if the pill is not effective.
women with an ectopic pregnancy or mass on their ovaries
women on long-term corticosteroids
women with certain genetic diseases
women who are not able to understand the procedure or how to follow the directions
women who will not have access to emergent medical treatment and facilities
women who have a molar pregnancy, in which the placenta develops abnormally
women who have heart, kidney, or liver problems
women with severe adrenal gland problems
women who currently have an IUD (though you can take the pill upon its removal)
women with bleeding disorders, or those who are taking anticlotting medications
The abortion pill is very effective. When misoprostol and mifepristone are used together, they have about a 98 percentTrusted Source effectiveness rate. The age of the pregnancy, the medication doses and administration, and whether or not a woman has been pregnant before may impact the effectiveness. The effectiveness rate decreases for each additional week of pregnancy.
While this effectiveness rate is high, it’s possible for a medical abortion to fail to terminate a pregnancy. In these cases, a woman would need to then undergo a surgical abortion.
How does it work?
When you’re taking both medications in a medical abortion, they’ll work together to terminate a pregnancy.
Mifepristone will be the first pill that you take. It works by blocking progesterone and causing the lining of the uterus to break down, terminating the pregnancy. About 24 to 48 hours after you take the first pill, you will take misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo and uterine lining.
Side effects and recovery
Women who undergo a medical abortion often experience bleeding and cramping that can last for up to two weeks after the procedure, including passing blood clots. Other common side effects include:
nausea and vomiting
feeling dizzy or heaving a headache
short-lasting hot flashes
Most women will abort anywhere from a couple of hours to a day or two after taking the second medication. However, it’s normal to experience light bleeding, spotting, and some cramping for up to four weeks following a medical abortion. Note that you can get pregnant almost immediately following an abortion.