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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 common name for using two different medicines to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.

First, you take a pill called mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing.

Then you take the second medicine, misoprostol, either right away or up to 48 hours later. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage. If you don’t have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medicine, call your nurse or doctor.

Your doctor or nurse will give you both medicines at the health center. When and where you’ll take them depends on state laws and your health center's policies. Your doctor or nurse will give you detailed directions about where, when, and how to take the medicines. You may also get some antibiotics to prevent infection.

How effective is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill is very effective. The effectiveness depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy when you take the medicine.

  • For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works about 94-98 out of 100 times.
  • For people who are 8-9 weeks pregnant, it works about 94-96 out of 100 times.
  • For people who are 9-10 weeks pregnant, it works about 91-93 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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