The abortion pill is a medical abortion. This type of abortion uses two drugs. The first medication blocks the progesterone hormone which is needed for pregnancy to continue. When used together with the second medication, it will end an early pregnancy (70 days or less since the first day of the last menstrual period or 10 wks LMP).
How is it taken? The FDA has approved a dosing regimen:
- on day one: the first medication is taken by mouth
- 24 to 48 hours after taking the first medication: the second medication is taken buccally (in the cheek pouch), at a location appropriate for the patient
- about seven to fourteen days after taking your first medication: follow-up with the healthcare provider
The documented side effects of the abortion pill include abdominal pain, severe cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, fever, and chills.
Risks include seeing embryonic parts expelled, a possible life-threatening infection known as sepsis (severe systemic infection), some failing to abort (which may require an additional surgical abortion procedure to complete the termination), undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, and possible hemorrhaging.
Information is lacking about the long-term mental health effects of a medical abortion, particularly, how women feel about giving themselves an abortion and seeing fetal parts expelled.
According to the FDA, some women should not take the first medication if it has been more than 70 days since the first day of her last menstrual period, or if she:
- has an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus)
- has problems with the adrenal glands (the glands near the kidneys)
- is currently being treated with long-term corticosteroid therapy (medications)
- has had an allergic reaction to the drugs used in the abortion pill, or similar drugs
- has bleeding problems or is taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drug products
- has inherited porphyria
- has an intrauterine device (IUD) in place (it must be removed before taking the first abortion pill dose)
Women who have taken the first abortion pill dose should follow their healthcare provider’s instructions including the associated risks and complications that can occur such as:
- sustained fever, severe abdominal pain, prolonged heavy bleeding, or fainting.
- abdominal pain or discomfort, or general malaise (“feeling sick,” including weakness, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, with or without fever)
Though not as common, other medical abortions can include medications or lethal injections for late-term abortions. Each comes with its procedures and risks.
Before taking the Abortion Pill or any other medication, get information from a trusted source so that you understand how it works and the possible side effects. Women have trusted the Pregnancy Resource Center Medical Clinic with pregnancy decisions since 2008.