The Abortion Pill: What You Need to Know

If you're considering a medical abortion (the "abortion pill") get the facts first.“Can’t I just take a pill and make this pregnancy go away?”

That may be what you’ve heard. But if you’re asking this question, you’re smart enough to guess that’s not quite the whole story.

Choices Pregnancy Center is here to help you learn all the facts about all your possible choices before you make a decision about your pregnancy. Today, let’s look at the “abortion pill.”

What is the Abortion Pill?

First of all, let’s drop the nickname. It sounds like you simply pop a pill and you’re back to not being pregnant.

Actually, in what doctors call “medical abortion” (or chemical abortion) women are usually given one or more pills of two different kinds: mifepristone (Mifeprex or RU-486) and misoprostol. The first medication blocks the progesterone the uterus needs to maintain a healthy pregnancy. It is usually administered in the doctor’s office or clinic. The second causes the uterus to contract and expel the developing fetus. It may be taken at home, where the fetus is expelled some time later. (How long that takes may vary from 5 hours to a few days.[1])

Many doctors also prescribe an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection.

As with all medications, these come with risks. Be sure you read the FDA’s warning labels:

Statistically speaking, these dangerous complications happen rarely. But who wants to be a statistic?

Important Note: Abortion Pill Reversal

Let’s say you started the process: you took the first medication. Maybe, like some women we know, you felt pressured into it—by a partner, by a parent, by your own stress. Then you had second thoughts. It may not be too late to turn it around. You may be able to preserve your pregnancy by receiving a dose of progesterone—same kind commonly used to prevent a miscarriage. Find out more about Abortion Pill Reversal here and here.  This procedure has proven successful 55% of the time, without producing any birth defects.[2]

If you have begun a medical abortion and wish to reverse it, call 1-877-558-0333 right away to receive immediate help from an Abortion Pill Reversal nurse.

What Medical Abortion is Not

Don’t confuse “the abortion pill” with “emergency contraception” like the Morning After Pill, Plan B or others. Those medications are meant to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in your uterus within 72 hours of having sex. Mayo Clinic explains emergency contraception in this article.

By contrast, medical abortion is used on an already-developing fetus. It stops the fetus from receiving the support it needs from your uterus to keep living there. It leads to the expulsion of that fetus, along with blood and perhaps a little tissue. It is more like an induced miscarriage.

Medical abortion is also not surgery. However, if a medical abortion is not fully successful, a surgical procedure may be needed to remove the fetus and/or other tissue left inside the uterus.

When Medical Abortion Cannot Be Done

Doctors will not perform a medical abortion under certain circumstances. They include:

  • The woman has certain health conditions such as heart disease, seizures, or a bleeding disorder. (Find more details in this Mayo Clinic article.)
  • The pregnancy is ectopic (outside the uterus). This risky situation requires the doctor to respond very differently. For this reason, obtaining an ultrasound to determine the location of the pregnancy is vital.
  • The pregnancy is too far along. Usually, the medications work best within the first seven weeks since the woman’s last menstrual period began.

The Results of Medical Abortion

Some women worry about what they will feel or see during and after the process.

Every woman is unique, and every pregnancy is unique. But the labeling on mefipristone says you can expect bleeding or spotting to last from 9-16 days, possibly up to 30 days. Expelling the fetus, blood, and tissue is usually accompanied by cramps which can vary in severity.

Complications, while rare, can be serious. The Mayo Clinic[3] cautions women to go to their doctor if they have any of these symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding — soaking two or more pads an hour for two hours
  • Severe abdominal or back pain
  • Fever lasting more than 24 hours
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

Whether or not you are able to see the expelled fetus in its sac depends on how far along you are. At 7 weeks, a fetus is about the size of a blueberry.  The brain is growing rapidly, eyelids are forming over the eyes, and developing arm and leg buds are showing alongside developing organs like the heart and kidneys. You can learn more about fetal development here and here.

The nature of medical abortion makes it very important for a woman to go back for a follow-up checkup. She must also have a way to get to emergency medical help should some of the serious complications arise after she takes the second medication at home.

Women experience a range of emotions during and after a medical abortion. Their hormone levels are suddenly forced to change. They may have conflicting feelings about whether choosing abortion was right or wrong. Just as a follow-up with a doctor is important, women must also be sure they have someone who will come alongside them to tend to their emotional and spiritual health.


If medical abortion becomes part of your story,
Choices Pregnancy Center will still be here for you.

We believe every life involved in a pregnancy matters,
because we view the world through the lens of faith.

And our faith says you deserve loving support before, during, and after you make a momentous decision about your pregnancy. You can count on us to love, not judge.
We want to see you move forward to wholeness and healing.

Text or call us today to start that journey.