RU-486 blocks a hormone that your body needs to continue a pregnancy. It works best when you use it with another medication called misoprostol, which causes bleeding to empty your uterus. The RU-486 abortion pill is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy.
RU-486 blocks a hormone that your body needs to continue a pregnancy. It works best when you use it with another medication called misoprostol, which causes bleeding to empty your uterus.
RU-486 is the brand name for mifepristone. This abortion pill was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000 as an effective alternative to surgical abortion. It works best when you use it with another medication called misoprostol, which causes bleeding to empty your uterus.
RU-486 and misoprostol are two medications that work together to end an early pregnancy. The RU-486 pill blocks the hormone that your body needs to continue a pregnancy and makes the lining of your uterus thinner. The misoprostol pills cause you to have cramping and bleeding that empties your uterus.
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Medication abortion — also called the abortion pill — is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy.
How does the abortion pill work?
“Abortion pill” is the common name for using two different medicines to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.
First, you take a pill called mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing.
Then you take the second medicine, misoprostol, either right away or up to 48 hours later. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage. If you don’t have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medicine, call your nurse or doctor.
Your doctor or nurse will give you both medicines at the health center. When and where you’ll take them depends on state laws and your health center’s policies. Your doctor or nurse will give you detailed directions about where, when, and how to take the medicines. You may also get some antibiotics to prevent infection.
How effective is the abortion pill?
The abortion pill is very effective. The effectiveness depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy when you take the medicine.
- For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works about 94-98 out of 100 times.
- For people who are 8-9 weeks pregnant, it works about 94-96 out of 100 times.
- For people who are 9-10 weeks pregnant, it works about 91-93 out of 100 times. If you’re given an extra dose of medicine, it works about 99 out of 100 times.
- For people who are 10-11 weeks pregnant, it works about 87 out of 100 times. If you’re given an extra dose of medicine, it works about 98 out of 100 times.
The abortion pill usually works, but if it doesn’t, you can take more medicine or have an in-clinic abortion to complete the abortion.
When can I take the abortion pill?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a medication abortion up to 77 days (11 weeks) after the first day of your last period. If it has been 78 days or more since the first day of your last period, you can have an in-clinic abortion to end your pregnancy.
Why do people choose the abortion pill?
Which kind of abortion you choose all depends on your personal preference and situation. With medication abortion, some people like that you don’t need to have a procedure in a doctor’s office. You can have your medication abortion at home or in another comfortable place that you choose. You get to decide who you want to be with during your abortion, or you can go it alone. Because medication abortion is similar to a miscarriage, many people feel like it’s more “natural” and less invasive.
Your doctor, nurse, or health center staff can help you decide which kind of abortion is best for you.
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Some women prefer the use of medicines to terminate a pregnancy because:
- It may be used in early pregnancy.
- It may be used at home.
- It feels more natural, like a miscarriage.
- It is less invasive than an in-clinic abortion.
Medicines can be used to end an early pregnancy. In many cases, the first day of your last period has to be less than 9 weeks ago. If you are over 9 weeks pregnant, you can have an in-clinic abortion. Some clinics will go beyond 9 weeks for a medicine abortion.
Be very certain that you want to end your pregnancy. It is not safe to stop the medicines once you have started taking them. Doing so creates a very high risk for severe birth defects.
Who Should Not Have a Medical Abortion
You should not have a medicine abortion if you:
- Are over 9 weeks pregnant (time since the start of your last period).
- Have a blood clotting disorder or adrenal failure.
- Have an IUD. It must be removed first.
- Are allergic to the medicines that are used to end pregnancy.
- Take any medicines that should not be used with a medical abortion.
- Do not have access to a doctor or an emergency room.
Getting Ready for a Medical Abortion
The health care provider will:
- Do a physical exam and ultrasound
- Go over your medical history
- Do blood and urine tests
- Explain how the abortion medicines work
- Have you sign forms
What Happens During a Medical Abortion
You may take the following medicines for the abortion:
- Mifepristone – this is called the abortion pill or RU-486
- You will also take antibiotics to prevent infection
You will take mifepristone in the provider’s office or clinic. This stops the hormone progesterone from working. The lining of the uterus breaks down so the pregnancy cannot continue.
The provider will tell you when and how to take the misoprostol. It will be about 6 to 72 hours after taking mifepristone. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and empty.
After taking the second medicine, you will feel a lot of pain and cramping. You will have heavy bleeding and see blood clots and tissue come out of your vagina. This most often takes 3 to 5 hours. The amount will be more than you have with your period. This means the medicines are working.
You may also have nausea, and you may vomit, have a fever, chills, diarrhea, and a headache.
You can take pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with the pain. Do not take aspirin. Expect to have light bleeding for up to 4 weeks after a medical abortion. You will need to have pads to wear. Plan to take it easy for a few weeks.
You should avoid vaginal intercourse for about a week after a medical abortion. You can get pregnant soon after an abortion, so talk with your health care provider about what birth control to use. Make sure you are using an effective contraception before you resume sexual activity. You should get your regular period in about 4 to 8 weeks.
Follow up with Your Health Care Provider
Make a follow-up appointment with your provider. You need to be checked to make sure the abortion was complete and that you are not having any problems. In case it did not work, you will need to have an in-clinic abortion.
Risks to Ending Pregnancy with Medicine
Most women have a medical abortion safely. There are a few risks, but most can be treated easily:
- An incomplete abortion is when part of the pregnancy does not come out. You will need to have an in-clinic abortion to complete the abortion.
- Heavy bleeding
- Blood clots in your uterus
Medical abortions are typically very safe. In most cases, it does not affect your ability to have children unless you have a serious complication.
When to Call the Doctor
Serious problems must be treated right away for your safety. Call your provider if you have:
- Heavy bleeding – you are soaking through 2 pads every hour for 2 hours
- Blood clots for 2 hours or more, or if the clots are larger than a lemon
- Signs that you are still pregnant
You should also call your doctor if you have signs of infection:
- Bad pain in your stomach or back
- A fever over 100.4°F (38°C) or any fever for 24 hours
- Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours after taking the pills
- Bad smelling vaginal discharge