Skip to content

Women's Health

Font Size

Abortion - Choices: Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is the use of medicines to end a pregnancy. Medical abortion can be done up to about 9 weeks of pregnancy.

  • A typical treatment schedule for a medical abortion usually requires at least two visits to your doctor over several weeks. For the first visit, one medicine is taken during the visit and a second medicine is given to be taken at home. Vaginal bleeding may last about 14 days. Usually about 2 weeks after the first medical visit, a follow-up examination is needed to see if you are recovering well and to make sure the procedure worked.
  • Medical care before and after a medical abortion includes physical exams and lab tests, education about what to expect, self-care instructions, information on when to call your doctor, and birth control planning.

Medicines currently available in the United States for inducing abortion are:

  • Misoprostol. This hormone softens and opens (dilates) the cervix and triggers uterine contractions. Misoprostol used alone may end a pregnancy but is much more effective when used with other medicines, such as mifepristone or methotrexate, in first-trimester abortions.
  • Mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, also known as Mifeprex or RU-486, blocks the effects of the hormone progesterone. This stops the placenta's growth, softens the cervix, and makes the uterus ready for labor. Misoprostol is then used to start contractions to clear the uterus of all tissue.
  • Methotrexate and misoprostol. Methotrexate interferes with the placenta's growth. It is not as effective as mifepristone and takes longer to abort a pregnancy. Misoprostol is then used to start contractions to clear the uterus of all tissue.

See the What to Think About section of this topic for a comparison of medical abortion and surgical abortion.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 05, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    Doctor discussing screening with patient
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    iud
    Expert views
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz