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How does Abortion Pills work? What is Medical Abortion?


Unplanned and unprotected sex can result in an unwanted pregnancy. One of the solutions for this untimely problem is abortion. Abortion is of two types: Medical abortion and surgical abortion. Medical abortion is also known as abortion pills, and it involves two types of pregnancy terminating pills. Abortion pills are different from “Plan B” or “morning-after pill”, which prevent pregnancy; and the abortion pills terminate the pregnancy. It is important to understand, abortion pills are pregnancy termination pills and not pregnancy prevention pills. Abortion pills contain two pills – Mifepristone and Misoprostol. One has to take both the pills to have an abortion. 

Precautions before taking abortion pills

Pregnancy can be legally terminated using abortion pills for women with pregnancy for less than 9 weeks. After 9 weeks of pregnancy, the woman must opt for surgical abortion. Medical history, health condition, and other factors are considered by the gynaecologist before prescribing abortion pills. 

Women who are NOT eligible for taking abortion pills:

  1. Women who have IUD (Intrauterine Device).
  2. Women having an ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy.
  3. Women taking corticosteroids over a long time.
  4. Women suffering from kidney, heart, liver problems.
  5. Women having bleeding disorders.

The patient must follow the complete instructions given by the gynaecologist and have a thorough understanding of the pregnancy termination process before taking abortion pills.

How does an abortion pill work?

The abortion pill contains two pills; the first pill mifepristone blocks progesterone and causes the uterus lining to break down. 24-48 hours after taking mifepristone, second pill misoprostol must be taken. This second pill causes the uterus to contract and pushes the embryo out.

  1. Taking Mifepristone: This pill stops the activities of progesterone. Progesterone is a pregnancy hormone required by the uterus to support pregnancy. By blocking the hormone, the uterus lining breaks and ends the embryo life.
  2. Taking Misoprostol: After taking Mifepristone, the patient must wait for 24-48 hours before taking Misoprostol pills. Mifepristone alone doesn’t terminate the pregnancy. Misoprostol causes the uterus contraction, flushes the dead embryo, causing heavy bleeding and cramping. 
  3. Physical Examination: After 2 weeks, the patient must visit the clinic for physical examination and confirmation of abortion. 

How long does abortion takes to complete?

After taking Misoprostol 24-48 hours post taking Mifepristone, within the first 5 hours, the majority of the patients experience heavy bleeding and cramping. This would gradually decrease with passing hours and then continue for a couple of days. The patient must observe and watch for thick embryo tissues while passing urine and in the sanitary pads.

After 2 weeks the gynaecologist would instruct the patient to visit the clinic for uterus scanning and physical examination to confirm abortion.

Care after medical abortion

The patient must consult with gynaecologists regarding post care guidelines. Most of the doctors suggest the patients wait for a week or two before engaging in sexual activities.


Abortion pills are safe according to the Food and Drug Administration; however, it might have side effects. Mifepristone and Misoprostol don’t affect fertility; however, the long-term effects of these drugs aren’t studied or monitored. Abortion is a personal choice, and it is advisable to visit a gynaecologist to consider the best abortion option.