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Many women prefer "the abortion pill", a method of pregnancy termination that involves taking two medications, to undergoing a surgical abortion. What do you need to know if you are considering this option?

What Is The Abortion Pill?

Mifepristone and Misoprostol, together often simply referred to as "the abortion pill", is a two-step treatment.

The first medication, Mifepristone, blocks progesterone, the hormone on which your uterine lining depends to maintain the pregnancy. This is given at your clinic, together with antibiotics to prevent infection. You take the second medication, Misoprostol, at home, within 24 to 48 hours after the first one according to the instructions of your healthcare provider. Misoprostol causes your uterus to empty. Therefore, you will start experiencing cramps a fair bit heavier than your menstrual cramps, along with bleeding. 

Your abortion may be complete within as little as five hours, or your bleeding — including visible clots and tissues — may continue for a few days. You are extremely likely to continue experiencing light bleeding for up to four weeks following your medical abortion. 

For Whom Is Medical Abortion An Option?

Medical abortion is an option up to nine weeks following your last menstrual period. It is 97 percent effective. Some women prefer medical abortion to surgical abortion because they prefer taking a pill to undergoing a surgical procedure. This procedure allows you to avoid local or general anesthesia and enables you to complete your abortion in a private setting, in the comfort of your own home.

Medical abortion is not a good option for you if you are more than nine weeks pregnant, if you are not willing to have a follow-up surgical abortion should the medical abortion prove to be unsuccessful (which is rare, but happens), if you can't attend follow-up appointments to ensure your uterus was emptied completely, or if you have heart, liver, kidney or adrenal gland issues. If you have an intrauterine device in place, medical abortion is not a good option for you either.

What Can You Expect From A Medical Abortion?

As with a surgical abortion, you will have a consultation with your healthcare provider prior to undergoing the treatment. You will have a physical exam, an ultrasound, lab tests, and discuss your medical history. Depending on where you live, there may be a required waiting period before you can proceed, and you may be required to discuss your other options before proceeding. 

In addition to bleeding and cramping, you may experience some dizziness, abdominal pain, a mild fever, diarrhea, and chills after taking the two pills. Should you soak through your maxi pads more than once an hour for more than two hours, have clots larger than your fist, or have a fever of 100.4°F or higher on the day of your abortion, you should contact your clinic immediately.

Your pregnancy symptoms should recede very quickly following your abortion. Should you still experience them or you generally feel very ill, contact your clinic right away as well.

Within two weeks, you should see your healthcare provider for a follow-up procedure to ensure the contents of your uterus were emptied completely and that you are in good general health. This is a very important step that should never be skipped.

You should not have intercourse for seven days following the procedure. Your menstrual cycle will return in four to eight weeks, after which you can get pregnant again. Many women find it helpful to discuss birth control options during their follow-up procedure. 

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