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What is a Medical Abortion?

Updated on August 24, 2012

Medical Abortion Procedure

As part of the procedure for how to do an abortion with pills, four misoprostol tablets are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve.
As part of the procedure for how to do an abortion with pills, four misoprostol tablets are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve. | Source

A medical abortion, or chemical abortion, uses pills to trigger a non-surgical termination of pregnancy. Medical abortion is an option up to 9 weeks of pregnancy as an alternative to surgical abortion. Medical abortion can be used beyond 9 weeks of pregnancy, but the risk of an incomplete abortion is greater after 9 weeks.

What Drugs are Used in Medical Abortion?

The drugs used in medical abortion are Mifepristone and Misoprostol. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, the hormone that causes pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol causes uterine contractions to expel the embryo from the womb.

Medical Abortion Procedure

1. The woman swallows one 200 milligram (mg) tablet of Mifepristone.

2.Twenty-four hours later, the woman lets 4 tablets of Misoprostol dissolve under her tongue. Each tablet contains 200 micrograms (mcg) of Misoprostol. The tablets are kept in place for 30 minutes until they are completely dissolved.

3. Four hours later, the woman puts 2 more 200-mcg Misoprostol tablets under her tongue and lets them dissolve as before.

All the doses must be taken as directed, even if bleeding has already started. Following this process for how to do an abortion with pills ensures that the abortion will complete correctly.

How Effective is Medical Abortion?

Medical abortion is 99% effective when mifepristone and misoprostol are used together. However, in some counties mifepristone is not available. In this case, misoprostol can be used alone to abort a pregnancy. The effectiveness of misoprostol alone is 80% - there is a greater risk of pregnancy continuing after abortion if only misoprostol is used.

Safe Abortion Pills

The drugs used in medical abortions are mifepristone and misoprostol.

Common mifepristone brand names: RU-486, Mifegyne, Mifeprex.

Common misoprostol brand names: Cytotec, Cyprostol, Misotrol, Gynismo, Prosokos, Vagiprost

Risks of Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is very safe. The main risk of medical abortion (2%) is that the abortion will be incomplete. After medical abortion that does not complete, the woman will need a surgical abortion. The symptoms of an incomplete medical abortion are the same as miscarriage: persistent heavy bleeding (more than 2 maxi pads per hour) and persistent severe pain. A woman who experiences these symptoms after medical abortion should see a doctor immediately.

Where Can I Get a Medical Abortion?

Women in the US can get a medical abortion by contacting Planned Parenthood or their usual healthcare provider. There are very few abortion clinics in some states, which means women need to travel. For help with meeting the costs of abortion or travel to a clinic, contact Fund Abortion Now (National Network of Abortion Funds).

To get a medical abortion in the UK, women should see their GP or call the BPAS hotline on 08457 30 40 30.

Women in Ireland cannot get abortions, even in cases where their life is in danger. Irish women travel to the UK for abortions. For help with the cost of travel to the UK for abortion, contact the Abortion Support Network.

To get an abortion in countries where abortion is illegal or restricted, many women travel to a country that allows abortion. Women can use an online abortion referral service Women on Web to find out how to get misoprostol and mifepristone for medical abortion.

Some women are tempted to buy misoprostol online for medical abortion. However, it is not a good idea to buy misoprostol online from a pharmacy website, as there is no guarantee that misoprostol bought online will be genuine.

Some women also try to buy misoprostol from pharmacies in countries where abortion is restricted. In some countries, it is possible to buy misoprostol from a pharmacy. Usually a prescription is needed, but occasionally women are able to buy misoprostol without a prescription as a treatment for arthritis or gastric ulcers.

Misoprostol Availability

Please click through for a map of misoprostol availability by country, including the brand names that it is sold under.


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    • tussin profile image

      I'M BANNED Y'ALL!!!!!!!!!! 5 years ago from Behind You

      I wish more people would abort. There are far too many people in this world. Great hub and voted up!

    • topquark profile image

      topquark 5 years ago from UK

      Learning is always good. Thanks for commenting.

    • Dolphan5 profile image

      Dolphan5 5 years ago from Warwick R.I

      Not my favorite subject, but you do well with it.

      I certainly learned alot.

      I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing? Yet!