How Does an Abortion Pill Work?

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The abortion pill is, in fact, two medicines. The first medicine ends the pregnancy and is called mifepristone. It works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Because without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot remain.

The second medication, misoprostol, causes the womb to contract, inducing cramping, bleeding and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage. Medication abortion is a great alternative to surgical abortion for women in the early weeks of pregnancy.

In this article:

When Should I Take the Abortion Pill?
How Effective is the Abortion Pill?
How Much Does the Abortion Pill Cost?
How Long Does it Take for the Abortion to be Effective?
What Should I Expect During the Medical Abortion Process?
What are the Risks of the Abortion Pill?
When will My Period Return?
Aftercare Tips
A Word of Caution
Getting Pregnant in the Future

When Should I Take the Abortion Pill?

You usually can take medication abortion up to 70 days (or 10 weeks) after the first day of your previous period. Medication abortion is available as soon as you know you are pregnant. No shots or anesthesia are involved, and you will likely have some control over when to take the second pill and the abortion may feel more natural, like a miscarriage (also known as spontaneous abortion).

the abortion pill side effects

How Effective is the Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill is extremely effective. The effectiveness depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy when you take the medication.

  • For those who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works about 96 out of 100 times.
  • For those who are 8-9 weeks pregnant, it works about 95 out of 100 times.
  • For those who are 9-10 weeks pregnant, it works about 92 out of 100 times.

If your pregnancy was not able to be terminated with the use of the pill, you might have to go for an in-clinic abortion.

How Much Does the Abortion Pill Cost?

The abortion medication can cost up to $1000 (Rs.70,612) but is often less. The cost of a medication abortion varies a lot and depends on where you get it, whether or not you have health insurance that will cover it or if it is what the doctor recommends based on your situation.

How Long Does it Take for the Abortion to be Effective?

For most people, cramping and bleeding usually start 1-4 hours after consuming the misoprostol. It’s normal to see large blood clots (up to the size of a lemon) or clumps of tissue when this is happening.

What Should I Expect During the Medical Abortion Process?

The abortion pill causes cramping and bleeding that can last several hours or even a few days. You can be at home, or wherever is comfortable for you and you should plan on taking it easy for the day.

Before you take the abortion pill, you’ll meet with your nurse, doctor, or health center staff to talk about whether abortion is the right decision for you and what your abortion options are. You’ll have to take an exam and lab tests, and you may get an ultrasound to figure out how far into your pregnancy you are.

Your doctor will inform you if there’s anything else you need to do to prepare for your abortion and they’ll give you instructions on how to take your pills. The abortion pill process has many steps and two different medicines.

First, you take a pill called mifepristone, this pill stops the pregnancy from developing any more. Your health practitioner may also give you antibiotics to prevent any infections.

The second medicine, misoprostol, is taken right away, or up to 48 hours after you take the first pill — your doctor or nurse will let you know how and when to take it. This pill will cause cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus.

What are the Risks of the Abortion Pill?

Though these abortions are considered safe, it is possible to undergo complications from the medications. Potential risks and complications of a medical abortion include the following:

  • an incomplete or failed abortion, where the fetus is viable or remains in the womb (this can cause serious infections that require immediate medical intervention)
  • an undetected ectopic pregnancy, which can be dangerous and is a medical emergency
  • blood clots remaining in the uterus
  • heavy bleeding/hemorrhaging
  • severe pain
  • fever
  • excessively heavy bleeding (described as going through two or more pads within the span of an hour)
  • strong-smelling vaginal discharge
  • passing clots for two or more hours that are larger than the size of a lemon

When will My Period Return?

It usually takes between 4-6 weeks for your normal menstruation to return after an early abortion. It’s normal for your first couple of periods and cycles to be slightly irregular after your abortion, usually starting about a week or so. Tracking can be a helpful way to keep a record of your abortion bleeding and symptoms like sore breasts, cramps, and nausea.

Aftercare Tips

It is essential to have a follow-up appointment to make sure the procedure is complete and the pregnancy has ended. Your doctor can order a blood test to check that the pregnancy hormone level has dropped. You will be given an appointment for review in two weeks’ time.

Approximately two to five percent of women will have some pregnancy tissues remaining in their uterus and will need further treatment such as extra medicines or a small surgical procedure to finish the abortion.

A Word of Caution

After taking the abortion pill, wait at one week to have sex, even if your doctor has prescribed you antibiotics. This reduces the risk of getting an infection. When you do have sex, use contraceptives because you can get pregnant very soon after an abortion.

Getting Pregnant in the Future

You can pregnant almost immediately even after an abortion, so do consider taking birth control pills or using contraceptives if you’re planning on having sex. Future pregnancies aren’t affected by abortion unless you had complications.

Sources

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/abortion-procedures-medication

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/the-abortion-pill/how-does-the-abortion-pill-work

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