At Avenue Women’s Center, we receive all kinds of questions on our information hotline and in our consultations with clients. A client from Glen Ellyn recently came to us asking about the abortion pill. This is a topic that is frequently raised, and we thought it would be helpful to post some information for all our readers.
When you have finished this article, it’s not unlikely you will have additional questions. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and trying to identify the best options for yourself, we hope you will have additional questions! We can cover the basics here; but the best place to get more information is with a pregnancy consultation at one of our five DuPage County locations. Every woman’s situation is unique, and at Avenue Women’s Center it is our commitment to listen, to inform, and to give you a safe and supportive place where you can determine how you will proceed. Please contact us for a confidential appointment today. We will be honored to accompany you in your journey.
“The abortion pill” is usually the expression used to refer to RU-486, an FDA-approved regimen to end a pregnancy up until the 10th week of gestation (70 days after the first day of the last menstrual period). There are actually two medicines that are used in this process.
- The first medication used is mifepristone, commonly known by its brand name, Mifeprex. The FDA protocol requires that Mifeprex be prescribed by a qualified, certified healthcare provider, and the drug must be dispensed in an abortion clinic, medical office or hospital by the certified provider. It is not available in a pharmacy. An ultrasound is typically performed to accurately date the pregnancy and to confirm the pregnancy is properly located (not an ectopic pregnancy). The Mifeprex works by blocking the production of hormones necessary for the pregnancy to grow and develop; the lining of the uterus is shed and a fertilized egg has nothing to attach to, thus ending the pregnancy.
- After receiving the first medicine at the clinic, the patient is given the second pill, misoprostol. The doctor will generally provide instructions for taking it at home about 48 hours later. The purpose of the misoprostol is to cause the uterus to contract and expel its contents. A woman may expect to experience intense cramping and heavy bleeding as the uterus empties. This part of the process may take a few hours or may last up to several days.
- In most cases, the third step is to return to the clinic in about two weeks for an examination to ensure that no tissue has been left behind in the uterus and the abortion is complete. A medication abortion is effective most of the time with a failure rate of only 2% to 8%. In those cases a follow-up surgical procedure may be required to remove any remaining tissue.
After using the abortion pill, typically bleeding or spotting may last for up to four weeks. Along with the strong cramping and heavy bleeding, side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, dizziness or weakness, mild fever or chills, and passing large clots in the blood.
If a woman has questions/concerns regarding her symptoms during the procedure, it is critical that she contact her doctor or call 911. It is also very important that a woman discusses her personal health situation in advance with her doctor as she learns whether the procedure is appropriate for her.
Use of the abortion pill is not recommended for women who are past 10 weeks’ gestation, who have bleeding problems or are taking anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) drugs, who have liver or kidney problems, Rh negative blood, or who are very overweight. If an intrauterine device (IUD) is in place, it must be removed before taking Mifeprex.
We hope this has helped to define for you the process of a medical abortion and how the abortion pill works. As we noted earlier, other significant questions may remain for you. In addition to the physical “mechanics” of the abortion pill, what other considerations might be important to you?
- What would be your plans for your recovery time?
- What might you experience emotionally?
- Are there other aspects you’ve not yet thought of?
With offices located not only in Glen Ellyn / Lombard, but also in Elmhurst, Naperville, West Chicago and Wood Dale, Illinois, we are ready to walk with you as you navigate the challenges ahead. Call, text, email or chat with us to learn more about the service and assistance Avenue Women’s Center can provide. We’re waiting to hear from you.
- Verywell. (2017, August). The Abortion Pill – RU486. Retrieved from: https://www.verywell.com/ru486-the-abortion-pill-906956
- American Pregnancy Association. (2017, June). Abortion Pill. Retrieved from: http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/abortion-pill/
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Mifeprex (mifepristone) Information. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm111323.htm
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2016, March) Questions and Answers on Mifeprex. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm492705.htm
- Guttmacher Insititute. ( 2017, December). Medication Abortion. Retrieved from: https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/medication-abortion
Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.