Abortion Pill (RU486)
How Easy is the Abortion Pill?
Every woman’s body will react in its own way to the medications involved in taking the Abortion Pill, making it very difficult to describe the experience. Ultimately, the Abortion Pill experience is very unpredictable. Most women will have a positive experience, but for some women, the experience can be quite hard. Many women who describe the experience as difficult feel this way because they were not adequately prepared for what to expect. It is important to us that we provide accurate information about the Abortion Pill and all of the possible outcomes. Being well-informed about what to expect can help to make the Abortion Pill process less scary.
Abortion clinics often do not provide the care that you need when you take the abortion pill. They may not properly explain what to expect, which can make the experience frightening. The may also charge extra for mandatory follow-up care. You may need to purchase additional medication. Before choosing an abortion pill provider, consider asking the following questions:
- Is the follow-up visit free?
- What do you offer for pain management?
- Is a doctor available at all times in the case of an emergency?
What is the Abortion Pill?
The Abortion Pill, RU486, is a three step process: 1) The first pill is taken in the medical office. 2) The second pills are taken at home, 24-72 hours later. 3) A follow up visit is scheduled to make sure the process was successful.
The Abortion Pill has been available in the United States since it was approved by the FDA in 2000. It has been available in Europe for almost two decades and was known as RU486. The Abortion Pill is an excellent non-surgical early abortion method, as women experience ending a pregnancy as a natural process, or early miscarriage. The Abortion Pill requires an initial visit and a follow-up visit by a doctor, but the main process occurs in the privacy of your own home.
Manual Vacuum Aspiration: the other non-surgical method
If you are considering the Abortion Pill, you should also consider the non-surgical method, Manual Vacuum Aspiration. MVA has many advantages over the Abortion Pill and surgical abortion. There is less cramping and much less bleeding compared to the Abortion Pill. MVA is completed in less than 5 minutes in a regular medical examination room, has immediate recovery, and does not require a follow up visit. MVA is safer and more convenient than a surgical abortion because there is no scraping, no electric suction machine and no general anesthesia.
Compare early abortion methods.
What can I expect if I take the Abortion Pill?
You will first have a sonogram in order to date the pregnancy and determine whether you are eligible for the abortion pill. The abortion pill can be taken from 5-9 weeks in the pregnancy, but declines in efficacy as the pregnancy continues.
The first pill (Mifepristone, RU486) will block the pregnancy hormone progesterone, preparing the uterus to expel the pregnancy. Women usually don’t have any symptoms with this pill. You are able to continue your normal activities. Occasionally there can be some spotting or bleeding, but no significant side effects.
Symptoms usually begin when you take four misoprostol tablets at home, 24-72 hours later. Some women experience flu like symptoms-mild nausea, mild fever or chills- within hours of taking the second medication. This is a side effect of the misoprostol, and usually does not last for more than an hour. Cramping typically starts 1-2 hours after the misoprostol. Most women have several hours of cramping that can be relieved with pain medications. Bleeding usually follows the cramping, and can be heavy for several hours. Typically, the bleeding then becomes more like a period and then irregular bleeding or spotting can continue for weeks to months. The average length of bleeding after the Abortion Pill is 6 weeks.
You must return for a follow up visit to make sure the Abortion Pill was successful. Most offices like to see you within a week of taking the first pill.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Abortion Pill
What are the advantages of the Abortion Pill?
Generally, women are happy with the Abortion Pill (RU486). 90% of women who choose the method would recommend it to others. Some women find it stressful or emotionally difficult to be in medical offices and wish to complete the process in the comfort of their homes. Some women experience the process to be more like a miscarriage than a procedure, and find some emotional comfort in this perspective. Many couples appreciate being together while the miscarriage occurs.
When can I take the Abortion Pill?
It is safe to take the Abortion Pill between 5-9 weeks of pregnancy, counting from the first day of your last menstrual period. The doctor will confirm the dates of pregnancy by an ultrasound examination.
How does the Abortion Pill Work?
The Abortion Pill is considered an early abortion method, because it only works during early pregnancy. Under 9 weeks of pregnancy, the uterus is getting ready for the pregnancy by developing a thickened lining inside, called “decidua”. The decidua is similar to the lining that comes out with your period, but a little thicker. This is why the Abortion Pill is said to “bring down your period.” The Abortion Pill is actually two sets of pills. The first pill, mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy hormones from reaching the uterus, so the tissue lining stops growing and starts to detach from the uterus. The second set of pills, misoprostol, cause the uterus to contract and the cervix to relax and open. This induces your period, or causes an early miscarriage.
What are the disadvantages of the Abortion Pill?
The Abortion Pill is usually predictable and there have been extremely rare but serious complications. While most women have a positive experience taking the pill, some women don’t. Some women have severe cramping that can last up to 8 hours. Some women have heavier bleeding that can last months. Rarely, this must be treated with a procedure. In extremely rare cases, bleeding has resulted in severe anemia and the need for a transfusion. For 1-2% of women who take the abortion pill, it will not work. This can be a difficult emotional experience to go through ending the pregnancy “again” with a procedure. There have been several unexplained deaths related to the Abortion Pill in North America. See more on health risks and abortion.
Does the Abortion Pill hurt?
Typically, there is no pain or cramping after taking the first pill, RU486. Most women experience strong period-like cramping for several hours after taking the second set of pills. Most abortion doctors will give you strong pain medications that should relieve this cramping. Some women get severe cramping that can last 6-8 hours.
How much bleeding will I have?
The earlier you are, the less bleeding you will have. Typically after you take the second set of pills you will have several hours of bleeding, heavier than a period. Within hours, the bleeding should become more like a period. This bleeding will last usually a week or more. It is common and normal to have irregular bleeding that lasts for weeks to months. The average length of bleeding is 6 weeks. This bleeding can be spotting, bleeding that stops and starts, or daily bleeding. It is normal to have bleeding that is red or brown in color. The passing of small or large clots is common and normal.
Do I need to miss school or work?
No. One of the best things about the Abortion Pill is that you can choose a time that fits your schedule. You can take the second set of pills after work, 24-72 hours after the first pill. Once you take the second set of pills, the miscarriage usually happens within hours. You should be able to resume your normal activities several hours later. Occasionally, the miscarriage will begin several hours after taking the second set of pills; these delays are uncommon, but are not a cause for concern. In these rare cases of delayed bleeding, it is best to stay home from work or school until the miscarriage has occurred.
What will I see?
If you are early enough to take the Abortion Pill (under 9 weeks since the first day of your last menstrual period) there is no visible embryo. At this stage the pregnancy consists of a heavy period, a tiny bubble of fluid, and invisible cells. You will see blood, like your period. You may see some of the pregnancy lining that looks like a wet paper towel material. You may pass small or large clots.
How is the Abortion Pill different from the Morning After Pill?
You must be pregnant to take the Abortion Pill (RU486). The Abortion Pill ends early pregnancy. The Morning After Pill (or emergency contraception) is taken after unprotected sex to AVOID getting pregnant. For more information, see the section on Plan B.
Can I take the Abortion Pill without anyone knowing?
Yes. It is easy to disguise your symptoms as a bad period or an early miscarriage. A doctor or medical professional cannot tell if you have taken the Abortion Pill.