While abortions in itself go back centuries, the abortion pill remains fairly recent. An abortion with pills, as we know it today, is a common term for medical abortions. More than 3 million women worldwide have had medical abortions in the past decade alone.[1] Before we trace the history and science behind the abortion pill, you can learn more about medical abortions here

The Science

A Medical Abortion consists of two different types of medication: one mifepristone pill and four misoprostol tablets. The instructions to administer these can be found here.

The first dose of a 200 mg mifepristone pill, begins the process by blocking the body’s progesterone, a hormone that is needed to continue a pregnancy in its early stages.

By blocking this hormone, the first pill helps break down the uterine lining that a woman normally sheds during her period, so that the embryo can detach from the uterine wall.[2]

A day or two after the intake of the mifepristone pill, four 200 mg misoprostol tablets are used to help expel the detached embryo.

The abortion begins about 4 hours after the ingestion of mifepristone, and complete rest for 24-48 hours is prescribed.[3]

The History

In 1950 the folic acid antagonist Aminopterin was used orally to induce medically indicated abortions in women at lesser than 3 months’ gestation. However, work in this area did not continue for long.[4]

In the 1970s researchers found that natural prostaglandins, were effective at inducing abortion early inpregnancy when administered intravaginally or transcervically. Despite the nongastrointesti- nal route, intravaginal administration of effective doses of natural prostaglandins also caused unacceptable levels of gastrointestinal side effects. However, the clinical use of prostaglandin analogs for early abortion remained limited by gastroin- testinal side effects.[5]

Misoprostol was first developed in the U.S. in 1973 to treat peptic ulcers, which it did by preventing harsh gastric secretions. But it had known major side-effects on a pregnant uterus.[6]

In the early 1980s Étienne-Émile Baulieu was investigating compounds that would block glucocorticoid receptors when he noticed that some of the compounds bound strongly to the similarly-shaped progesterone receptor and blocked the action of progesterone.[7]

This led to the French pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf developing mifepristone, also known as RU-486, a pill that could be taken in sequence with misoprostol to induce an abortion. Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid drug used under various trade namesto induce abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.

It was first put on the market in France in 1988, with China, Sweden and Great Britain following soon after. In December 1998 Germany approved mifepristone for sale and use; some of the other European Union countries have subsequently followed suit. Recently Israel also approved mifepristone for early aborion.

In the U.S., reproductive rights activists hoped the FDA would adopt the method in the '90s, but anti-abortion activists helped delay its approvaluntil 2000. When the U.S. first legalized abortion medication, it was available up to seven weeks after pregnancy. Women receiving it had to visit a clinic three times - once to take the mifepristone, a second time to take the misoprostol, and a third time for a follow-up.

In 2016, the FDA extended the pregnancy period to 10 weeks and reduced the number of required visits to two, meaning that women could now take the misoprostol at home.

We’ve come a long way in the history of medical abortions today. Medical abortions are a safe way to end an early pregnancy. It offers an important alternative to surgical abortion for women with early pregnancies who wish to avoid a surgical procedure.

While abortions in itself go back centuries, the abortion pill remains fairly recent. An abortion with pills, as we know it today, is a common term for medical abortions. More than 3 million women worldwide have had medical abortions in the past decade alone.[1] Before we trace the history and science behind the abortion pill, you can learn more about medical abortions here

The Science

A Medical Abortion consists of two different types of medication: one mifepristone pill and four misoprostol tablets. The instructions to administer these can be found here.

The first dose of a 200 mg mifepristone pill, begins the process by blocking the body’s progesterone, a hormone that is needed to continue a pregnancy in its early stages.

By blocking this hormone, the first pill helps break down the uterine lining that a woman normally sheds during her period, so that the embryo can detach from the uterine wall.[2]

A day or two after the intake of the mifepristone pill, four 200 mg misoprostol tablets are used to help expel the detached embryo.

The abortion begins about 4 hours after the ingestion of mifepristone, and complete rest for 24-48 hours is prescribed.[3]

The History

In 1950 the folic acid antagonist Aminopterin was used orally to induce medically indicated abortions in women at lesser than 3 months’ gestation. However, work in this area did not continue for long.[4]

In the 1970s researchers found that natural prostaglandins, were effective at inducing abortion early inpregnancy when administered intravaginally or transcervically. Despite the nongastrointesti- nal route, intravaginal administration of effective doses of natural prostaglandins also caused unacceptable levels of gastrointestinal side effects. However, the clinical use of prostaglandin analogs for early abortion remained limited by gastroin- testinal side effects.[5]

Misoprostol was first developed in the U.S. in 1973 to treat peptic ulcers, which it did by preventing harsh gastric secretions. But it had known major side-effects on a pregnant uterus.[6]

In the early 1980s Étienne-Émile Baulieu was investigating compounds that would block glucocorticoid receptors when he noticed that some of the compounds bound strongly to the similarly-shaped progesterone receptor and blocked the action of progesterone.[7]

This led to the French pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf developing mifepristone, also known as RU-486, a pill that could be taken in sequence with misoprostol to induce an abortion. Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid drug used under various trade namesto induce abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.

It was first put on the market in France in 1988, with China, Sweden and Great Britain following soon after. In December 1998 Germany approved mifepristone for sale and use; some of the other European Union countries have subsequently followed suit. Recently Israel also approved mifepristone for early aborion.

In the U.S., reproductive rights activists hoped the FDA would adopt the method in the '90s, but anti-abortion activists helped delay its approvaluntil 2000. When the U.S. first legalized abortion medication, it was available up to seven weeks after pregnancy. Women receiving it had to visit a clinic three times - once to take the mifepristone, a second time to take the misoprostol, and a third time for a follow-up.

In 2016, the FDA extended the pregnancy period to 10 weeks and reduced the number of required visits to two, meaning that women could now take the misoprostol at home.

We’ve come a long way in the history of medical abortions today. Medical abortions are a safe way to end an early pregnancy. It offers an important alternative to surgical abortion for women with early pregnancies who wish to avoid a surgical procedure.

If you are looking to learn more about safe medical abortions, you can visit our website. You can also follow us on social media: we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube

If you are looking to learn more about safe medical abortions, you can visit our website. You can also follow us on social media: we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube