What is a medical abortion and how to access one

Access to abortion care varies depending on where you live. Medical abortion, also known as the abortion pill, is a safe and effective option for those looking to end a pregnancy earlier than 10 weeks. The FDA approved the abortion pill in 2000 and by 2020, medical abortions accounted for over half of U.S. abortions.

What exactly is the abortion pill and how does it work?

The “abortion pill” is a bit of a misnomer as it isn’t a single pill. The most common “abortion pill” is a combination of Oral mifepristone (Mifeprex) and oral misoprostol (Cytotec). The former is used to prevent the embryo from growing, and the latter is used to release the embryo from your body. 

Those who get the abortion pill from a provider will likely take Mifeprex in their provider’s office and the Cytotec later at home. You may be asked to return to your provider’s office after about a week so they can confirm the abortion is complete.

Can I purchase the abortion pill online?

Yes. Some opt to purchase abortion pills from legitimate sources online and take them at home. While this is a safe option for most people, it’s a good idea to take a couple steps to make sure you’re safe: preselect a provider that you can contact if you experience side effects and plan to have someone you trust nearby. 

Additionally, the combination of Oral mifepristone (Mifeprex) and oral misoprostol (Cytotec) is not the right abortion method if you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. If you haven’t had an ultrasound, there is a chance that you could be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy without knowing it. It’s always a good idea to check with your provider if possible before taking any medication. Medical abortion is only an option for those who are less than 10 weeks pregnant. If you’re not sure how far along you are, you’ll also need to check with a provider.

If it’s not possible to check in with a provider, serious side effects to look out for are severe stomach pain, fainting or lightheadedness, or sudden shoulder pain. If you notice these symptoms, go to a hospital right away — they will be able to treat you even if abortion is not legal in your state. 

What are normal side effects?

While side effects can vary from person to person, everyone will experience cramping and bleeding. Some more serious side effects, like nausea, vomiting, chills, headache, and diarrhea are also possible. 

Where can I access a medical abortion?

Through your provider or online from sites like https://www.abortionfinder.org

How much does it cost?

The abortion pill can cost several hundred dollars, or much less, depending on where you get it and if your insurance covers it. There are abortion funds that can help you cover the cost — learn more here

Are there risks?

There may be legal risks to purchasing and taking the abortion pill, depending on where you live. You can find more information about legal risks here

And, as with any medication, there are medical risks and side effects associated with the abortion pill (including those cited above). That said, it is a safe, effective, and FDA approved method.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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Ovia’s goal is to support the health and wellness of our members throughout their reproductive health journeys. Ovia cannot, however, encourage or discourage the very personal decision of whether to have an abortion or counsel on whether and how an abortion may be performed in a particular case. Abortion may or may not be legal in your state and in your particular personal situation. None of the information made available through Ovia is intended to provide you with legal advice regarding abortion. Ovia may refer you to third-party websites or publications for additional information on reproductive health issues, including abortion. Ovia is not affiliated with these third parties and is not responsible for any information that they make available to you.

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