It's common for women to be nervous about having a medication abortion — or any other medical procedure. But many of us feel better if we know what to expect. Your health care provider will talk with you and answer your questions. Here's a general idea of how it works and what to expect.
Before taking the abortion pill, you will need to
- discuss your options
- talk about your medical history
- have laboratory tests
- have a physical exam. This usually includes an ultrasound.
- read and sign papers
You will also be given a medication guide, instructions, and other information to take home with you, including a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week telephone number you can call if you have any questions or concerns.
Medication abortion is a process that begins immediately after taking the abortion pill.
There are three steps:
STEP ONE — THE ABORTION PILL
Your health care provider will give you the abortion pill at the clinic. You will also be given some antibiotics to start taking after the abortion pill.
The abortion pill works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down, and pregnancy cannot continue.
STEP TWO — MISOPROSTOL
You will take a second medicine — misoprostol. It causes the uterus to empty.
You and your health care provider will plan the timing and place for the second step. You'll take the second medicine up to three days after taking the abortion pill. Your health care provider will give you instructions on how and when to take the second medicine.
The second medicine — misoprostol — will cause you to have cramps and bleed heavily. Some women may begin bleeding before taking the second medicine. But for most, the bleeding and cramping begin after taking it. It usually lasts a few hours. You may see large blood clots or tissue at the time of the abortion.
More than half of women abort within four or five hours after taking the second medicine. For others, it takes longer. But most women abort within a few days.
It's normal to have some bleeding or spotting for up to four weeks after the abortion. You may use sanitary pads or tampons. But using pads makes it easier to keep track of your bleeding.
How Does Medication Abortion Feel?
For most women, medication abortion is like an early miscarriage. It is normal for you to have bleeding and cramping. You might also
- feel dizzy
- feel strong cramps
- feel nauseous or vomit
- have diarrhea
- feel temporary abdominal pain
- have temporary mild fever or chills
- Acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil) can reduce most of these symptoms. Do not take aspirin.
You may feel more at ease if you have a trusted loved one with you during the abortion.
STEP THREE — FOLLOW-UP
You will need to follow up within two weeks. Follow-up is important to make sure your abortion is complete and that you are well. You will need an ultrasound or blood test.
In the unlikely event that you are still pregnant, your health care provider will discuss your options with you. It's likely you will need to have an aspiration abortion if the medication abortion did not end the pregnancy.
To learn more about medication abortion, watch this short video.