How Does the Abortion Pill Terminate a Pregnancy?

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If you want to terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of gestation, there are two methods to choose from: 1) a surgical dilatation and curettage (D&C) or the medical abortion or abortion pill procedure. The abortion pill method has increased in popularity since being FDA approved in the United States in the year 2000. Studies show that women who have had the surgical and abortion pill procedures performed would choose to have the abortion pill procedure. The advantage of the abortion pill procedure is that there is a 94 to 99 percent chance of no surgery, the patient is allowed to have her significant other or companion with her at the time of the abortion procedure, the abortion procedure happens in the patients controlled environment, and it allows for greater privacy.

At the first office visit for those women who choose the abortion pill procedure, it starts with a pregnancy test to verify that there is a pregnancy. A urine dip stick test is done to be certain that there is not a bladder infection, protein or glucose in the urine, and several other screening tests to assure the patient’s health is OK. A blood test is done to check for anemia and to do Rh testing. Patients also have an abdominal and or pelvic sonogram performed to determine the number of weeks pregnant she is.

Pregnancy counseling is done to go over the benefits and risks of the procedure. It is also determined if patients are being forced to terminate their pregnancy. If they are being forced, the facilities will not perform the procedure.

Patients are then given the RU 486 pill (Mifeprex or Mifepristone), which must be taken before you go home. This medication stops the development of the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. This causes the pregnancy to separate from the wall of the uterus, soften the cervix, and increase the intrauterine pressure that can lead to over 50 percent expulsion of fetal tissue in 24 to 48 hours. Patients are given a second medication, Cytotec (Misoprostol), which is a medication that causes the uterus to contract that is taken 24 to 96 hours after leaving the office.

After taking the Misoprostol tablets, uterine contractions generally start within 4 to 6 hours and vaginal bleeding begins shortly thereafter. The pregnancy tissue passes within 4 to 8 hours after taking the Misoprostol tablets. It can take from 24 hours up to 30 days for all of the gestational tissue to pass. Bleeding normally lasts up to 14 days but it has been known to last 30 to 60 days.

Patients return 1 to 2 weeks after the initial office visit and have a repeat sonogram to assure that the pregnancy tissue has passed from the uterus. If patients are not able to do this second visit, then they are not a candidate for the abortion pill procedure.

Complications that can occur with the abortion pill procedure include heavy vaginal bleeding, retained pregnancy tissue, or uterine infection which all occur less than 1% of the time. The Abortion Pill procedure is safe and highly effective in ending abortions from 3 to 12 weeks gestation.