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What is the abortion pill?

Medication abortion — also called the abortion pill — is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy.  

How does the abortion pill work?

“Abortion pill” is the popular name for using two different medicines to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.

Your doctor or nurse will give you the first pill, mifepristone, at the clinic. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone. You’ll also get some antibiotics.

You use the second medicine, misoprostol, 6-48 hours later, usually at home. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage.

How effective is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill is very effective. For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works about 98 out of 100 times. From 8-9 weeks pregnant, it works about 96 out of 100 times. From 9-10 weeks, it works 93 out of 100 times.

The abortion pill usually works, but if it doesn’t, you can take more medicine or have an in-clinic abortion to complete the abortion.

When can I take the abortion pill?

You usually can get a medication abortion up to 70 days (10 weeks) after the first day of your last period. If it has been 71 days or more since the first day of your last period, you can have an in-clinic abortion to end your pregnancy.

Why do people choose the abortion pill?

Which kind of abortion you choose all depends on your personal preference and situation. With medication abortion, some people like that you don’t need to have a procedure in a doctor’s office. You can have your medication abortion at home or in another comfortable place that you choose. You get to decide who you want to be with during your abortion, or you can go it alone. Because medication abortion is similar to a miscarriage, many people feel like it’s more “natural” and less invasive.

Your doctor, nurse, or health center staff can help you decide which kind of abortion is best for you.

More questions from patients:

Can the abortion pill be reversed after you have taken it?

Here’s the deal: The “abortion pill” is the popular name for a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy using a combination of two medicines: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first medicine (mifepristone) is given at a health center or your health care provider’s office. After taking mifepristone, you take a second medication (misoprostol) at home 6-48 hours later. This causes cramping and bleeding and empties your uterus.

Claims about treatments that reverse the effects of medication abortion are out there, and a handful of states require doctors and nurses to tell their patients about them before they can provide abortion care. But these claims haven’t been proven in reliable medical studies — nor have they been tested for safety, effectiveness, or the likelihood of side effects — so experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reject these untested supposed treatments.

Studies on the abortion pill do show that if you take the first medicine but not the second, the abortion pill is less likely to work. So if you’ve begun the process of having an abortion using the abortion pill but are having second thoughts, contact the doctor or nurse you saw for the abortion right away to talk about your best next steps and what to expect.

What is the RU-486 abortion pill?

RU-486 is the former name of mifepristone — one of the medications that you take to have a medication abortion. RU-486 is now called "the abortion pill" or "Mifeprex" (the brand name for mifepristone).

RU-486 was developed in the 1980s. It's been safely used in Europe since 1987, and in the US since 2000.

RU-486 blocks a hormone that your body needs to continue a pregnancy. It works best when you use it with another medication called misoprostol, which causes bleeding to empty your uterus.

The RU-486 abortion pill is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy.

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