Medical abortion is a safe and effective method of terminating a pregnancy, but you may be wondering exactly how the abortion pill works and what’s involved.
Do I need a GP referral to have an abortion?
No, there are a few routes you can take to access abortion here in the UK:
- GP referral
- Self referral
- Private abortion clinic
Private abortion clinics may not be free, but they do have the benefit of no waiting lists, and give you more control over the experience and doctor, including allowing you to choose which one you attend or whether you prefer abortion pills by post.
What happens during a medical abortion?
- You’ll have a consultation with your treating doctor. This may be in-person, over the phone, or via a video call, depending on which access route you choose.
- If you have an in-clinic medical abortion, you will take mifepristone at the clinic before going home with misoprostol. If you opt for abortion pills by post, your clinic will send you the mifepristone and misoprostol in the post. You will need to take the mifepristone tablet(s) first.
- 24-48 hours later you will take the misoprostol tablets. Usually, the pregnancy will begin to pass within a few hours and you will likely experience cramps like a very bad period.
- You will also be provided with a pregnancy test for you to confirm that the pregnancy has been expelled.
You will be provided with detailed information by your treating doctor about what to expect and the abortion process.
What is mifepristone?
Mifepristone blocks the supply of hormones that makes the uterus a habitable environment for a foetus. When these hormones are blocked, it is not possible for the uterus to support a pregnancy. Most women won’t notice anything after taking mifepristone. Mifepristone is used in conjunction with misoprostol.
What does misoprostol do to the uterus?
Misoprostol has many uses, and in addition to abortion, it is used to treat stomach ulcers and postpartum bleeding. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin medication. Prostaglandins are compounds found in the body that have a wide range of hormone-like effects (depending on the receptors they attach to). It is thought that prostaglandin causes the cramping that happens when you are on your period. When used for the purpose of an abortion, misoprostol causes the uterus to cramp, helping it to expel the pregnancy from the body.
How long does misoprostol take to induce labour?
After taking misoprostol, it is common for the body to start expelling the pregnancy within three hours, but this can vary. In some cases, nothing happens and more pills will be required. Your doctor will explain this to you.
Can anything be done to help with the pain?
Abortion pain varies greatly between individuals. It also differs depending on how far along the pregnancy is. Someone terminating a pregnancy at 4 weeks will usually not experience as much pain as another terminating at 10 weeks. Usually, your doctor will prescribe you with painkillers to help you with this. It is a good idea to prepare by being at home in a comfortable environment with someone you trust to offer support.
What’s the difference between the morning after pill and the abortion pill?
The morning after pill is considered emergency contraception. Although it is often referred to as ‘the morning after pill’, it can be used up to 72 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy in the first place. Abortion pills can be taken up to 10 weeks of pregnancy to terminate a pregnancy.
Making a decision about terminating a pregnancy
We hope that the information provided above has explained some of the details about abortions, and helped you to understand the process and feel more equipped to make a decision that is right for you.