How does the abortion pill work?
The abortion pill is made for women who are pregnant up to 10 weeks (that means 70 days after the first day of your last menstrual period), so before you can get the pill, you need to know how far along you are.
You can find out through an ultrasound at a healthcare clinic or a free provider like Choices Clinics. Next, you’ll have to visit an abortion provider to get the pills. If you have an intrauterine device (IUD), it will have to be removed before beginning the regimen.
The entire abortion process usually takes about two weeks from start to finish, including a follow-up visit to the doctor’s office to make sure everything worked. If it didn’t, more visits will be needed.
How the Abortion Pill Process Works
Even though it’s called the abortion PILL, a medical abortion is actually a series of several pills—usually five.
Here’s how the process works:
- You take a medication called mifepristone (also called by its brand name Mifeprex) —it’s one pill and is usually taken right there in the healthcare clinic when the doctor prescribes it. This pill blocks progesterone to stop a pregnancy from growing. But the process is not over yet, the pregnancy still has to be removed.
- Then, you will take a medicine called misoprostol. This medication is four tablets that are taken at home up to 48 hours after the first pill. It will soften the cervix and cause significant cramping and bleeding to expel the pregnancy.
- After taking both medications, the pregnancy is typically ended and usually passed from the uterus within 2 to 48 hours.
It’s really important to get these pills in person from a licensed healthcare provider at a clinic. You might have seen them advertised online, but those are not FDA-approved and might be ineffective, counterfeit, tainted, and unsafe. And unlike Plan B/the morning-after pill (which only works 5 days after sex), it’s not available over the counter.
Patients must return to the health center for a follow-up appointment two weeks later to have an exam or ultrasound to confirm that the abortion was successful and that there aren’t any complications.
What side effects does the abortion pill have?
The level of pain and side effects can really vary from woman to woman, but there are expected symptoms that nearly everyone will experience. Heavy cramping and bleeding is the main thing. 80%–90% of women report bleeding more heavily than they do during a heavy period—this is how the body expels the pregnancy.
These other common side effects can last for about 2 to 4 weeks after the abortion:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Extended spotting and bleeding
Some less common side effects that mean a patient needs to see the doctor include:
- Heavy or persistent bleeding – soaking two or more pads an hour for two hours
- Passing clots for two or more hours that are larger than the size of a lemon
- Severe abdominal or back pain
- Fever above 100.4
- Fever lasting more than 24 hours
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Continuing symptoms of pregnancy
Something that is often not talked about is that there are also emotional side effects to watch out for that are actually more common than physical effects. While physical symptoms can be relatively immediate, many women experience emotional and psychological effects from these pills that may appear later and last longer—everything from mild regret to more serious complications like depression.
According to The American Pregnancy Association common negative feelings include:
- Remorse or regret
- Loss of self-esteem or self-confidence
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Sleep problems and bad dreams
- Relationship problems
- Thoughts of suicide
In most cases, these negative feelings will subside as time passes. However, if there are additional issues, such as a sense of isolation or previous history of mental health problems, there may be a higher chance of depression occurring.
We’re Here for You
The abortion pill is a big decision with lots of questions surrounding it, but it doesn’t have to be navigated alone. We are here to help answer any questions you may have about abortion, pregnancy, or general sexual health.
You can book an appointment for a pregnancy test, an ultrasound, STI testing (all services we offer for free!), or just to talk privately about what you’re facing if you or a friend are pregnant.
Other Helpful Links
ALL SERVICES ARE FREE AND CONFIDENTIAL
FREE Pregnancy Tests
We provide free lab-quality urine pregnancy tests that allow us to detect pregnancy in its earliest stages.
When you have a positive test at CHOICES you may qualify for a free ultrasound.
Free Pre-Abortion Consultation
A healthcare professional will walk you through all of the options for your pregnancy.
We are here for you and can help you find the resources you may need.
After Abortion Care
In a confidential manner we can help you recover from the pain of a past abortion.