Types of Abortion Pills and Their Use
There are two types of abortion pills, and each has a different mechanism of action. Mifepristone blocks the hormone needed for a pregnancy to grow, while the ingredients used in misoprostol work by relaxing and opening the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and causing the uterus to contract, which pushes out the pregnancy.
Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.
Mifepristone blocks the hormone needed for a pregnancy to grow.
Yes, you can use misoprostol safely at home. When you take misoprostol pills, try to make sure that you’re in an area (like your home) where you have privacy and can lay down for a few hours after you take the pills. Having someone with you who can look after you and bring you hot tea or something to eat can be very helpful.
Do not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes while you allow the misoprostol to dissolve. After 30 minutes have passed, you can drink water to swallow the remnants of the pills and, in general, as much water as you need to feel hydrated.
Yes, you can drink water to help you swallow the mifepristone.
There are two ways to use misoprostol: placing the pills in your vagina or under your tongue (sublingually). HowToUse suggests that you only use misoprostol under your tongue because it is more private (the pills dissolve faster and do not leave visible traces in your body) and has less risk of infection.
Both the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol and misoprostol-only are effective options. However, if available and affordable to you, the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol should be your preferred choice.
98 women in 100 will have a complete abortion if mifepristone and misoprostol are used. About 95 women in 100 will have a complete abortion if only misoprostol is used.
Mifepristone and misoprostol are used together because the pills complement each other. The medicine used in misoprostol works by relaxing and opening the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and causing the uterus to contract, which pushes out the pregnancy.
If you use misoprostol pills under your tongue, no one will be able to tell you used abortion pills, as you will swallow everything after 30 minutes. If someone asks, you can say you had a natural miscarriage. If you use misoprostol vaginally, the coating of the pill may not dissolve completely for a day or two. If you need to seek urgent medical care within 48 hours since you used misoprostol vaginally, the healthcare provider may see the white coating of the pill in your vagina. This is why HowToUse suggests using misoprostol under your tongue and not inside your vagina.
- Clinical practice handbook for safe abortion. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014 https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/97415/9789241548717_eng.pdf?sequence=1
- FIGO's updated recommendations for misoprostol used alone in gynecology and obstetrics. FIGO; 2017 https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ijgo.12181
- Medical management of abortion. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGOhttps://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/278968/9789241550406-eng.pdf?ua=1
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Best practice in comprehensive abortion care. RCOG. 2015. London, Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Best Practice Paper No. 2. https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/best-practicepapers/best-practice-paper-2.pdf