Medical Abortion

Photo Finish
unborn child at 6 weeks

The unborn child is alive prior to an abortion, and already has a beating heart.

Mifepristone (Mifeprex)

What is medical abortion?

A medical (non-surgical) abortion is performed by administering a drug to end a pregnancy. The "Abortion Pill" (brand name Mifeprex, formerly known as RU486) is a form of early induced abortion caused by the combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. Medical abortion with mifepristone is used for abortion in women who are 8 weeks pregnant or less. During the first appointment at the clinic the patient receives the mifepristone pill to take orally. Then 24 to 72 hours later, the patient inserts a tablet of misoprostol into the vagina, which causes contractions resulting in a miscarriage. When used in combination, mifepristone and misoprostol usually result in a complete abortion within two weeks.

How does medical abortion work?

Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone needed to maintain the pregnancy. Because this hormone is blocked, menstruation is triggered. The uterine lining begins to shed, the cervix softens, and bleeding may occur. When the misoprostol is later inserted into the vagina, the uterus contracts and the embryo is usually expelled within 6 to 8 hours.

Side-effects and health risks of medical abortion

Most of the side effects are caused by the second medication, misoprostol. Side-effects may include heavy bleeding, headache, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and painful cramping. Vaginal bleeding during the abortion can be extremely heavy, and this is why it is required that a woman reside within two hours of a hospital for this type of abortion.

In a few situations the abortion fails and it may require a surgical abortion or even a blood transfusion. If pregnancy is continued after taking these medications, there is a risk of fetal deformities. In terms of long-term effects, several studies indicate a link between early abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.

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