Medical abortion is commonly called “abortion by pill”, or medical or medication abortion.
It is a non-invasive procedure for terminating a pregnancy. The name of the abortion pill is Mifeprex. It has also been called Mifepristone and RU-486. This option of abortion is available at the Philadelphia Women’s Center (PWC) if you are between 5 and 10 weeks of pregnancy based on your last menstrual period, and you meet all eligibility requirements.
Mifeprex has been available as an early abortion method in the United States since September 2000, although, in several other countries around the world it has been a safe abortion method for more than 20 years. At PWC, we use an FDA approved method for administering a medical abortion.
For help deciding which method of abortion is right for you, an excellent workbook can be found online here.
You may not be eligible for a medical abortion if you have: an ectopic pregnancy, ovarian mass, an IUD in place, adrenal failure, anemia, bleeding disorders, asthma, liver or kidney problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, or if you are currently using blood thinners or taking certain steroids.
How does the medical abortion work?
Mifeprex is used with another medication called misoprostol (also called Cytotec) to cause a process similar to miscarriage. There are three steps to the medical abortion (in addition to complying with the Pennsylvania waiting period requirements), and the time it takes to complete the abortion can vary from person to person. The medical abortion requires at least 2 visits to Philadelphia Women’s Center.
Step 1: First Visit
On the day of your first appointment, you will go through a pre-procedural assessment, which includes having an ultrasound, vital signs and blood testing, medical consultation, counseling session, and payment. The medical abortion will begin when the doctor administers Mifeprex. This medication is taken by mouth and will block the production of the hormones the pregnancy needs to continue developing.
Step 2: At Home
24 – 48 hours after taking Mifeprex you will take a dose of misoprostol. Misoprostol is a medication that causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy. You will place the misoprostol pills in between your cheek and your gums for a half hour and then swallow them. You can expect the first symptoms of abortion within 4 – 6 hours of taking the misopostol. You will begin to experience strong cramping and heavy bleeding. Some women say that the procedure is very much like a heavy period while other women describe the bleeding and cramping as much more intense. Please keep in mind that everyone responds to the medical abortion differently.
The heaviest of the bleeding and cramping should pass within 24 hours, though for some women it may take longer. Afterwards your bleeding should then begin to resemble a normal period. You may continue to bleed and have some mild cramping for up to 30 days.
Step 3: Second Visit
You will return to Philadelphia Women’s Center for a follow-up exam which includes a pregnancy test and ultrasound. This is the most important part of the procedure, as this is the only way to determine if the abortion is complete. If the medical abortion fails to remove all the pregnancy tissue, the physician may give you either more misoprostol or perform a surgical abortion. 2-7 out of 100 women will need a surgical procedure to end the pregnancy.