The Abortion Pill

Considering Mifepristone

It may sound quick and easy. Take a pill and the pregnancy is gone. But that's not the way mifepristone, or "the abortion pill" really works. Ending a pregnancy with Mifepristone is a form of early abortion with its own set of risks and difficulties. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you need to learn all about your choices, including the choice to have a "medical abortion" — ending a pregnancy through the use of drugs.

Abortion is controversial and can often stir strong feelings. Although many religious people are against abortion, not all religious people are against abortion in all cases. For example, Orthodox Judaism allows abortion in some very limited circumstances where the mother's health in danger and even insists on it when the mother could die immediately due to the pregnancy. The decision is usually made on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the woman's rabbi and her doctor. The same is true for many Christian sects. Even conservative Christian denominations agree that abortion is appropriate when a woman's life is in danger.

However, most abortion are not for health reasons. About half of all abortions result from not using contraception, and most of the remainder are a result of contraceptive failure. It's important to remember that no method of birth control, except for abstinence, is 100% effective.  Even the most reliable birth control can let you down.

Early Abortion Option

If you think you are pregnant and are considering having an abortion you need to see a professional as soon as possible to discuss your options. Do not delay. Whether you decide in the end to have an abortion or not, the sooner you see a doctor the better. In any event, the earlier someone has an abortion the easier and less traumatic it will be, and early abortions tend to have fewer medical complications than later ones.

What To Expect

The abortion pill, known as Mifeprex (mifepristone) or RU-486, is licensed by the FDA for early non-surgical abortions. A woman can have this treatment if she is less than seven weeks pregnant — i.e. it is less than 49 days since her last period.  If you decide to have a medical abortion, you will be given three Mifeprex pills to take straight away (day one). You will then have to go back to the clinic two days later (day three) to take two pills of a different medication (misoprostol). You should start to bleed within a few hours and this bleeding can take as long as a normal period or even longer. Some people experience bleeding or spotting for up to a month.

This chemical combination causes an abortion by interfering with the function of the placenta, starving the fetus to death.  The misoprostol causes uterine contractions to expel the fetus.  This method of abortion takes place over the span of several days. The average woman using it bleeds heavily for more than nine days, but some women have bled for over four weeks. 

Depending on how pregnant you are when you take the abortion pill, you may also have large blood clots or even tissue. You can also expect to feel nauseous, have diarrhea as well as have cramps similar to period pains. After two weeks you will need to return to the clinic for a checkup and to make sure that the abortion was successful. In some instances (up to 2%) you may need to have a surgical procedure to complete the abortion. Many women find that their first period after an abortion is heavier than usual, but by your second period, things should be back to normal.

What To Do Next

Before you decide on an abortion, you should visit your local pregnancy resource center for help and advice. Using the right contraceptive every time you have sex will help reduce the risk that you don't find yourself unintentionally pregnant again.


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