What are the side effects of the abortion pill?

What are the side effects of the abortion pill?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, there has been a spike in demand for alternative abortion methods; within the first few days of the landmark decision, there was a 162% increase in searches for abortion medication, revealed in a recent study by Jama Internal Medicine. Since abortion rights now fall under state legislation and are no longer federally protected, there is heightened interest and need for an accessible, discrete, and convenient abortion method, thus the rising popularity of the colloquially termed “abortion pill." So, what are the side effects of the abortion pill? What should you expect after taking the abortion pill?

Let's dive into the side effects of the abortion pill.

Currently, there are two medication abortion methods for those pregnant within the 10-week gestation period: either a dose of mifepristone and misoprostol, or a dosage of misoprostol alone. While this medicinal approach is arguably more convenient and safer for those in states where all abortions have been banned, taking abortion medication should not be considered easy, and its side effects should be fully understood before going down that route. 

Mifepristone and Misoprostol side effects

Misoprostol – which can be taken after a dose of mifepristone or on its own – is an oral or vaginal pill that causes the cervix to soften and the uterus to contract. These contractions help to empty contents of the uterus and thus terminate the pregnancy which in turn causes heavy bleeding as the tissue and embryo exit the body. How long will I bleed after a medical abortion? Bleeding – along with blood clots – last a few hours, with expected cramping for a couple of days. The bleeding after taking misoprostol is not so much a side effect as it is crucial as it indicates that the dose was effective; so essentially, it is a problem if that does not occur. Along with vaginal discharges, chills, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting are also common symptoms. 

The second method is a regimen consisting of taking mifepristone before the misoprostol. Mifepristone blocks the production of progesterone (a hormone the placenta makes to prevent miscarriages) essentially triggering the lining of the uterine wall to break down and terminating the pregnancy. After taking the mifepristone, it is normal to experience some vaginal bleeding, spotting, nausea, vomiting, pelvic pain, dizziness, headaches, or various vaginal sensations like itching or burning for about two weeks. While other complications are rare, excessive bleeding and adrenal failure is possible. The FDA has listed more severe risks, including death, associated with mifepristone if the pregnancy is ectopic, the patient has an IUD inserted, or if the patient has other various underlying health conditions.  

Overall, both abortion pills commonly induce side effects similar to an intense period, or a miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy. These effects can differ if taken after the ten-week gestation mark, and depending on an individual’s medical history. To fully understand whether a patient is a candidate for medication abortion, it is important to get a prescription, consult a medical professional, and be aware of the symptoms one may experience after taking the abortion pill.