The Abortion Pill, also known as RU-486, Mifeprex™, and mifepristone, is a common early abortion method in the United States. It actually uses two different drugs to induce abortion.
- The “pill” is actually a protocol that involves taking two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are taken in two separate doses on different days.
- It is not available through a pharmacy, but is only available by an authorized provider.
- The FDA strongly cautions against the use of mifepristone obtained over the Internet.3
- Because of complications, the FDA keeps close track.4
- The abortion pill is not the same as the emergency contraception.
- For women who change their minds after taking just the mifepristone, it may be possible to rescue the pregnancy. For more information, see: The Abortion Pill Reversal.
How it works
The first medication, mifepristone, blocks progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that is necessary for the pregnancy to survive. Without progesterone, the embryo will eventually die over the next several days. Next, the second medication, misoprostol, causes bleeding and cramping, expelling the embryo and uterine contents.
As a result of taking the abortion pill, cramping and bleeding are expected. Bleeding lasts an average of 9 to 16 days. In addition, other possible side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, weakness, dizziness and headache.
In 1% of women, bleeding is so heavy a surgical procedure called a D&C is required to stop the bleeding. In rare cases, life-threatening infection has occurred in a small number of women who used the abortion pill protocol. Before taking any medication, you should discuss the risks with your doctor and know what to do if complications arise.
Finally, it is important to follow-up with your doctor 1 to 2 weeks after taking this medication regime to see if an abortion has occurred and to assess for complications.
Information taken from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2016). “Mifeprex Medication Guide.” U.S. Department of Health. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/mifeprex-mifepristone-information
2. Viability is generally considered about 24 weeks from a woman’s LMP. See https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/overview-abortion-laws