The Abortion Pill: Mifegyne®

The Abortion Pill: Mifegyne®

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Procedure, Effect, and Further Information on Medication Abortions

  • Depending on local policies, chemical (i.e., medication) abortions are possible up until the 9th week of pregnancy.
  • First, the pregnant woman takes a medication called Mifegyne® (active ingredient: Mifeproston, aka, RU-486) under medical supervision. This medication causes the cervix to dilate and the uterine lining to loosen. The embryo dies in the process.
  • A second pill, taken 2-3 days later, causes contractions which bring about the expulsion of the embryo.

On this page, you will find more information about the process and effect of a medication abortion by Mifegyne®, including possible risks and side-effects.



Abortion via Pills

In addition to surgical abortion methods, medication abortions are also possible through the use of pills. This is also referred to as chemical or hormonal abortion. Here, abortion (removal of the embryo) is achieved by taking medication.

The abortion pill must be prescribed by a doctor and can be used up until the 9th week of pregnancy.

Cut-off dates for abortions vary from state to state and country to country. However, there is no minimum length of pregnancy for the utilization of the abortion pill.

In this context, the word “pill” is a colloquial term for abortion pill.

ℹ️ Note: The pill used for an abortion contains a different active ingredient than the birth control pill or the morning-after pill.


What Kind of Pills Are Used for an Abortion?

Prostaglandin pills are used in addition to Mifegyne® (active ingredient mifepristone) during a medical abortion. The synthetically produced prostaglandin derivative Cytotec® (active ingredient misoprostol) is frequently prescribed for this.

Prostaglandins are also sometimes used before surgical abortions via vacuum aspiration.In this case, the purpose of the drug is to soften the cervix in advance.


How Much Does the Abortion Pill Cost?

Privately funded, the abortion pill usually costs $350 to $650 in the US, 560 pounds in GB, $250 in Australia and R620-R1200 in South Africa. (Rates are not guaranteed.) For more information, go to How Much Does An Abortion Cost?


What Is the Abortion Pill, Mifegyne®, and How Does It Work?

Mifegyne® is an abortion pill brand name. According to the CDC, Mifegyne® was used in over 1/3 of all abortions in 2019.& Other names for the abortion pill are: Mifeprex®, Mifegymiso®, RU-486, and Mankind’s Unwanted Kit.


How Mifegyne® Works:

  • The drug contains the active ingredient mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks the effects of the hormone progesterone, which is essential for maintaining a pregnancy.
  • Mifepristone makes the pregnant woman's body believe that she is no longer pregnant.
  • Within approximately 48 hours, the cervix opens and the mucus plug loosens.
  • The preliminary stage of the placenta with the chorionic villi is already developing in the very first weeks of pregnancy. It is responsible for the exchange of nutrients and metabolic products between the maternal and child's circulation. When mifepristone is taken, the lining of the uterus with the chorionic villi detaches from the uterine wall. The embryo loses its source of nourishment and footing and dies.
  • In very few cases (about three percent), Mifegyne® acts quickly. If it does, the bleeding starts at this point and embryo and placental tissue are expelled.

However, in most cases, Mifegyne® alone does not lead to the embryo's expulsion. Therefore, the doctor also administers a prostaglandin two to tree days later. This is a hormone that triggers contractions.


Side Effects of Mifegyne®

Aside from vaginal bleeding, a medication abortion can have the following side effects:

  • Abdominal pain / cramps
  • Dizziness, chills, or hot flashes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Infections

Due to heavy bleeding, some women require curettage to stop the bleeding or a blood transfusion. For this reason, a medication abortion should only be performed under medical supervision and in close proximity to an emergency room.

Your doctor will provide you with further information during your preliminary consultation.


How Does a Medication Abortion Work?

The nine most important steps to take before an abortion can be found in the article, "Abortion methods."


Before the Procedure

In some cases, the woman's blood type is determined. This is an advisable precautionary measure for two reasons:

  • If heavy bleeding during the abortion necessitates a blood transfusion.
  • If the woman is rhesus negative, she will need to receive a RhoGAM shot to avoid complications in future pregnancies.


Procedure of a Medication Abortion

  1. Initially, the pregnant woman takes one to three pills of Mifegyne®, each of which contains 200 milligrams of mifepristone. She should be under medical supervision for at least two hours after administration of the drug.
  2. Two to three days later: In most cases, Mifegyne® alone does not result in the embryo's expulsion. Medical abortion with Mifegyne® includes the administration of another drug called Cytotec®, with the active ingredient misoprostol, which is taken one to three days later. Misoprostol is a synthetic prostaglandin that induces contractions. During an abortion, it causes the uterus to contract and bleed. For the next six hours, the woman should be closely monitored.
  3. Within approximately two hours after the administration of misoprostol, bleeding sets in and the embryo is expelled. Should the bleeding have not commenced within three hours, a second dose of misoprostol is administered.


After the Procedure

Seven to twenty-one days after administration of misoprostol, a follow-up examination is recommended. Ultrasound or lab tests can be used to determine whether the embryo and placental tissue with the chorionic villi have been completely expelled.

If this is not the case, a second dose of medication or curettage may be necessary, which would result in additional costs.



Gentle or Stressful? - Possible Risks

At first glance, a medical abortion seems to be easier and less stressful on the woman — after all, the alternative would be surgery. Nevertheless, there are a number of aspects that should be considered:


Potential Physical Side Effects

Terminating one’s pregnancy via Mifegyne® and a prostaglandin is physically very demanding - causing hormonal imbalance and lasting several days.


Potential Emotional Side Effects

Additionally, women often experience great emotional anguish:

  • The women have to take the pills themselves and, thus, actively initiate the process of abortion.
  • Many women still feel torn even after taking the first pill and struggle to decide whether they really want to go through with the abortion. Then, the question arises whether it is already too late to be able to keep the baby. (It is sometimes too late to stop the abortion after taking mifepristone, but can be successfully reversed in 64-68% of cases.) For more information go to: Reversing an Abortion.
  • Many women find it particularly hard to consciously experience an abortion that lasts several days.

To find out more, go to: Anticipated Emotional Effects of an Abortion


Where Do I Go From Here?

Perhaps you are pregnant and this situation is very stressful for you. Maybe your pregnancy was unexpected and came at an inconvenient time. Your partner possibly doesn't want this child. You may already have several children and can’t imagine having one more.

You are not alone! Allow us to walk alongside you as you determine which path to take. Our judgement-free resources are tailor-made for you and your situation:


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