The Abortion Pill – What is a Medical Abortion?

Updated: Oct 1

You’ve found out you’re pregnant, and you are feeling overwhelmed. Now it’s really important to get accurate information.

One of the options you may have heard about is the abortion pill, which is also known as a medical abortion. Two types of abortion exist – medical and surgical. (These pills are often confused with the “morning-after pill” or Plan B, but those are designed to prevent pregnancy.) This blog will discuss medical abortion.

While a medical abortion is called the abortion pill, it’s actually involves taking 2 pills.

The first pill is mifepristone, and it cuts off the blood supply to the developing embryo. That pill is taken at the abortion clinic. You will be given a second pill, called misoprostol, which you take home and take in 1-2 days. That pill causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo.

If you change your mind between the first and second pill, it’s possible to counter the effects of the drug and continue the pregnancy. However, timing is critical in order to administer the right medications. Call or text Your Choices at 336-629-9988 or 877-558-0333 to talk with someone right away.

7-14 days after taking both pills, it’s important to return to the doctor who prescribed the pills to confirm that your abortion is complete. Incomplete abortions can result in infection and other serious health risks.

After your abortion, you can expect bleeding and cramping, generally for 9-16 days. Some women, though, may bleed for 30 days or more.

Some other side effects can be headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, hot flashes, diarrhea, and general fatigue. The FDA has reported complications like a need for hospitalization, blood loss requiring transfusion, and infection in some cases.

That’s why it’s important to watch for warning signs like heavy bleeding that soaks through 2 thick, full-size pads in an hour for 2 hours or more, persistent severe stomach pain, fever of 100.4 or higher for more than 4 hours, strong-smelling vaginal discharge, or passing clots larger than a lemon for 2 or more hours.

Some women should not have a medical abortion. If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant, or have certain pre-existing conditions like:

  • an ectopic pregnancy or mass on your ovaries

  • high blood pressure

  • uncontrolled diabetes

  • on long-term corticosteroids

  • with certain genetic diseases

  • no access to emergency medical treatment or hospitals

  • a molar pregnancy, in which the placenta develops abnormally

  • heart, kidney, or liver problems

  • severe adrenal gland problems

  • an IUD in place

  • a bleeding disorder, or are taking anticlotting medications

In these cases, it can be dangerous, even life-threatening, to have a medical abortion.

The first preexisting condition listed above is an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo is growing outside your uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. If the embryo is in your fallopian tube, the abortion pill won’t end the pregnancy and the embryo will continue to grow. This could cause the fallopian tube to burst. The problem is that you wouldn’t know if you have an ectopic pregnancy – you would only know you had a positive pregnancy test.

The best way to prevent that is to get an ultrasound before having a medical abortion, offered at no charge at Your Choices. Our trained sonographers can confirm that your pregnancy is in your uterus.

Once you’ve had a positive pregnancy test, you are likely facing lots of pressure and need to consider the long-term impact of your choice. An options coach can meet with you and walk through education about all your options, and give you confidence in your decision. Call for an appointment today!

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