According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortion accounts for more than half of U.S. abortions. Medication abortion, also referred to as the abortion pill or medical abortion, has gained traction among providers and patients because you don’t need to be in a clinical setting. Instead, patients can take abortion medication from the comfort and privacy of their homes, and it’s less invasive than surgical abortion. In addition, medication abortion is safe, effective, and standard.
What to Expect
Mayo Clinic reports that the most common regimen of medication abortion is a combination of oral mifepristone and oral misoprostol. You’d take mifepristone at the health center managing your care or at home if you’re self-managing your abortion or have received the medication via telehealth.
Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol, which you’d take up to 48 hours after mifepristone, causes the uterus to contract and empty. Side effects are less common after mifepristone but generally begin 1-4 hours after taking misoprostol. Be sure to follow the medication’s instructions carefully.
You may experience nausea, fever, dizziness, headache, diarrhea, chills, and heavy cramping for one or two days. It’s also common to spot or bleed sporadically for a few weeks after your medication abortion. You can expect more severe bleeding and more intense cramping than an average period; you’ll pass some larger blood clots up to the size of a lemon. It’s also important to know that everyone’s physical experiences differ slightly depending on the person.
Preparing for Your Medication Abortion
You’ll want to plan to take a day off school or work when you take the second medication, misoprostol. If you cannot take days off, you might plan your medical abortion for a weekend. Plan to rest and prepare with everything you might need to be comfortable. Many people resume daily activities the day after a medication abortion, but you may still feel tired or crampy. Don’t do heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for several days after your medication abortion.
After taking misoprostol, you’ll want to plan on staying put, remaining close to a bathroom, and having everything you need nearby. Several items and over-the-counter medications can help make your medical abortion more comfortable.
What to Have On Hand
- Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes
- A blanket for chills
- Peppermint tea, ginger tea, ginger ale, fluids for nausea and to stay hydrated in case of vomiting or diarrhea
- A heating pad for cramping
- Keep your mind occupied with a binge-worthy show or your all-time favorite comfort series.
- Pain-relievers such as ibuprofen or painkillers prescribed by your doctor ahead of time. Aspirin may make bleeding worse.
- Toast, crackers, white rice, soup, any foods that help settle your stomach and provide comfort. You may want to avoid greasy or spicy meals during this time in case of nausea or upset stomach.
- Anything that’s comforting to you—this could be a coloring book or petting your dog.
- Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm can help you get centered or take your attention away from any discomfort you may experience.
- Ice chips or popsicles to stay hydrated.
- Anti-nausea medicine
- A hot shower to help with cramps—do not bathe during this time.
- Absorbant maxi-pads. Many providers advise against using tampons or other vaginally inserted menstrual products like cups or discs during a medication abortion.
- A pregnancy test for 2-4 weeks after taking the abortion medication. At Austin Women’s Health Clinic, we provide a free ultrasound two weeks after your medication abortion.
Need Additional Support?
Whom you decide to tell about your abortion is entirely up to you. If it makes you feel supported to have a close and trusted friend with you during your abortion, it may be worth calling that person. You might also choose to have someone on speed dial that can come over and provide care during your abortion and get you anything you might need. Additionally, full-spectrum doulas are trained to support you non-medically throughout various experiences such as birth, miscarriage, abortion, or adoption.
It’s normal for abortions to bring up a range of emotions. Some people feel relief, joy, sadness, and some feel anything in between. All emotional experiences are valid. If you need emotional support during your abortion, you might consider reaching out to any of the following resources. It may also be helpful to seek further care through a therapist or counselor who honors your experience. It’s okay to need additional support!
- Exhale Pro-Voice offers a free text-line for non-judgemental after-abortion support.
- All-Options Talkline offers peer-based counseling and support for current or past experiences with abortion, parenting, adoption, fertility, and pregnancy loss.
- Connect & Breathe offers a talk-line for abortion experiences with unbiased support and self-care encouragement.
Medical abortions are a common choice, and you are not alone in your experience. If you are feeling isolated, it may be helpful to scroll through other people’s abortion stories. Managing your physical symptoms, taking it easy, and seeking support if you need it can all help soothe discomfort during your medication abortion. If any complications arise, our physicians are on call 24 hours a day.