By: Claire
How long does an abortion with pills take? Though the question seems straightforward, there a few different pieces to the answer. Understanding how the abortion process works, what signifies that an abortion was successful, and how long you may continue to feel the aftereffects of an abortion are critical elements to consider when mapping the timeline for an abortion with pills.

The First Signs An Abortion With Pills Has Started
Let’s start with the first signs that an abortion is underway: you can expect cramping and bleeding to begin within 3 hours of using misoprostol pills. Though uncomfortable, cramping and bleeding are positive signs that the abortion is proceeding as expected. They signify that the misoprostol has begun acting on the uterus and that the pregnancy is being expelled from the body.

Both bleeding and cramping are usually most intense 4-8 hours after using misoprostol. Remember that you can reduce discomfort during an abortion by planning a self-care regimen ahead of time. You can learn more about managing the effects of an abortion with pills on our website’s General Advice section.

An Abortion With Pills Will Expel The Pregnancy
How you care for yourself during an abortion with pills is entirely your decision. Some women may take comfort in keeping a close eye on any bodily discharge, while others may simply prefer not to look. Both are valid approaches.

However, if you choose to closely monitor your blood discharge during an abortion with pills, you may actually be able to notice when pregnancy tissue passes from your body. Keep in mind, though, that this will depend on how far along the pregnancy is; later pregnancies may be more notable as they pass, while earlier pregnancies may be harder to identify.

Pregnancy tissue from an abortion within the first 10 weeks may look like small, dark colored grapes. You may also see a tiny sac surrounded by a white fluffy layer. The size of the tissue will depend on the length of the pregnancy. Earlier pregnancy tissue may be smaller than your fingernail, while later pregnancies can be the size of your thumb.

Once the pregnancy has exited the body, the abortion is complete and you are no longer pregnant. This usually occurs within 24 hours of using the abortion medication.

After An Abortion With Pills Is Complete
Here’s where people can get confused: if the pregnancy has been terminated, why don’t things go back to normal right away? Why might a woman continue to experience the effects of abortion even after the abortion is technically complete?

In truth, the effects of an abortion with pills may continue for several weeks. This doesn’t mean that you are still pregnant, but rather that your body needs time to adjust back to baseline.

Bleeding is perhaps the most obvious of the continued effects of abortion. Though the heaviest bleeding will usually peak 4-6 hours after using misoprostol, it is common for women to continue bleeding for another 3-4 weeks after the abortion. This bleeding should gradually lighten over time by itself.

Sometimes continued bleeding can make women feel uncomfortable and they wonder what they can do to stop it. Remember that this bleeding is normal; it is your body’s natural process of emptying the uterus after a pregnancy termination. So long as the bleeding is never excessive and there is no sign of infection, there is nothing you need to do other than allow it to gradually stop on its own.

In addition to continued bleeding, women should notice a change in their pregnancy symptoms after using the abortion pills. Nausea and fatigue will fade, breast swelling will reduce, and the body will return to its regular not-pregnant state. The timeline for this change varies, but it usually occurs in the first few days after using the abortion pills.

And finally: the pregnancy test. Women can use a pregnancy test after an abortion with pills to confirm that they are no longer pregnant. However, the timing of this test is very important and will determine its accuracy.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting a pregnancy hormone in urine. When there is a certain amount of hormone in the urine, the pregnancy test will read positive. If the test is taken too soon after an abortion, the pregnancy hormone is likely to still be present which may cause a false positive test result. Therefore, in order for a pregnancy test to produce a reliable result, women should wait at least two weeks after an abortion to test.

If you are looking to learn more about safe medical abortion, you can visit our website or send us an email at You can also follow us on social media: we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Claire is a teacher, reproductive rights advocate, and the manager of