What is the Abortion Pill and How Does it Work?

The abortion pill, also called a medication abortion, is a safe and effective, non-surgical method for terminating an early pregnancy.

The abortion pill is not just one pill, but a combination of two separate medications taken at different times that work together to end a pregnancy. The two medicines are mifepristone and misoprostol.

Abortion Pill in doctor's hand

Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid and is the first pill taken in a medication abortion. Mifepristone is available under the brand names: Mifeprex, Korlym, and RU486.

Misoprostol is sold under the brand name Cytotec. It’s used in combination with mifepristone in a medication abortion. The drug is also used to start labor and to treat postpartum bleeding due to poor contraction of the uterus.

Before you are given the abortion medications, you’ll meet with a doctor or nurse to talk about the abortion pill and whether this procedure is right for you. You’ll get all your questions answered. You’ll get an exam, lab tests, and perhaps an ultrasound to help determine how far into your pregnancy you are.

How does the abortion pill work?
Mifepristone is taken first. This medication works by blocking the body’s production of progesterone, a hormone necessary to sustain the pregnancy. This lack of progesterone causes the embryo to detach from the uterine wall.

Misoprostol is taken within a day or two after taking the mifepristone, usually at home. This drug works by causing cramping that empties the uterus, kind of like a period.

After a determination is made that the abortion pill is right for you and the procedure has been explained, you will be given one dose of mifepristone to be taken orally, right then, in the doctor’s office. This pill starts the abortion by inhibiting the production of progesterone in the body.

Within 24 hours to 48 hours, while you are in the comfort of your own home, you must place the misoprostol pill in the cheek (buccally) or under the tongue (sublingually) once, as a single dose. This must be kept in place for thirty minutes.

The earlier dose of mifepristone will have caused the embryo to detach from the wall of the uterus. With the taking of the misoprostol the body will begin to shed the uterine lining and empty the uterus (much like a menstrual period).

Some common misconceptions about this pill

Misconception: The abortion pill is the same as the morning after pill

  • Some people are confused about the difference between the abortion pill and the morning after pill.
  • The abortion pill and the morning after pill are two totally different medications and are designed to be taken for two different reasons.
  • The abortion pill is used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
  • The morning after pill is an emergency contraceptive drug called Levonorgestrel. It’s a very safe and effective emergency contraceptive that can be taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

Misconception: The abortion pill is reversible
Claims about the existence of treatments that reverse the effects of medication abortion are out there, but these haven’t been proven in reliable medical studies, nor have they been tested for safety or effectiveness.

However, studies on the abortion pill do show that if you take the first medicine but not the second, the abortion pill is less likely to work. If you have begun the process of having a medication abortion and are having second thoughts, don’t take the second pill. Call your doctor right away to talk about your next steps and what to expect if you stop this abortion procedure after the first medication.

Misconception: The abortion pill is dangerous
Every medical or surgical procedure comes with risks, which is why doctors and nurses provide unbiased, accurate information to any person considering an abortion. But both medical and surgical abortions have an enviable safety record of less than 1 percent rate of major complications.

How can I get an abortion pill?

The abortion pill is available only through a clinic, medical office, or hospital. Never try to buy the abortion pill online – you don’t know what you’re getting and have no medical support in place to help you through the procedure.

If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and considering terminating it with the abortion pill, contact your doctor right away. The FDA has approved the abortion pill to terminate a pregnancy during the first 10 weeks after your last menstrual period. This means that this medical abortion can be utilized up to 70 days or a little over two months after the first day of your last period.

If you want to know more about this procedure, please give us a call. Getting answers to your questions about the abortion pill is important to ensure you have all the information you need and know about your options.