What is a medical abortion?

This procedure involves the use of drugs or chemicals to end the life of the developing baby during the early stages of human growth.

How do the chemicals work?

(RU-486 / The Abortion Pill/Mifeprex) is a chemical that blocks the action of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is needed to continue the pregnancy by maintaining the lining of the uterus; this is necessary for normal implantation as well as normal placental attachment and development. RU-486 causes the lining to die and separate from the uterine wall. When this happens, the baby’s blood supply (carrying nutrients and oxygen) is cut off. Both the placenta and the baby eventually fall from the uterine wall attachment site.

When is a medical abortion used?

This technique is used in a pregnancy less than 49 days old (7 weeks after the first day of the last normal menstrual period).

Complications or Side Effects to Medical Abortions

  • An incomplete chemical (medical) abortion may require a surgical abortion:
  • 5% of pregnancies at 7 weeks gestational age are not complete after this procedure and require a D&C.
  • Up to 16% of pregnancies between 7 and 8 weeks gestational age are not complete after this procedure and require a D&C.
  • 12% to 35% of women may experience a delay in abortion for up to 1 month.
  • Pain – Up to 90% of women may require a pain reliever, sometimes codeine for cramping and abdominal pain
  • Bleeding – Vaginal bleeding can last up to 3 weeks with the passage of blood clots. Anemic women are not candidates for this procedure.
  • Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea – Women experiencing these symptoms may require medication to stop the vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Infection – May result from retained pregnancy products, undiagnosed STD or possible destruction of the body’s white blood cells (neutropenia, 4%).


The information presented on this website is intended for general education purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.