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What Is a Medical Abortion?

An unexpected pregnancy comes as a shock, and determining your next steps may be the most complicated situation you’ve ever faced. We applaud you for educating yourself because having accurate facts will allow you to make an informed decision about whether it’s best for you to continue your pregnancy or choose to have an abortion.

If you’re considering abortion, there are two types to learn more about: medical abortion and surgical abortion. But the most important factor is not to make a hasty decision. Instead, take a deep breath and just focus on one step at a time.

In this article, we’ll discuss what a medical abortion is, what to expect, when it’s not an option, and the risks to be aware of.

What Is a Medical Abortion?

A medical abortion is a procedure that ends a pregnancy by taking two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. It’s also called the abortion pill.

Mifepristone is taken first to block your body from producing the progesterone hormone, stopping the embryo’s heart and interrupting its attachment to the uterine lining.

Misoprostol is taken up to 48 hours later to produce strong uterine cramps that expel the pregnancy from your uterus.

How far along into your pregnancy is a medical abortion an option? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the abortion pill for medical abortions up to seventy days since the first day of your last period (LMP).

Next, we’ll discuss what you can expect during a medical abortion.

What Can I Expect During a Medical Abortion?

During a medical abortion, you will typically take the first medication at a healthcare facility or abortion clinic. Then, you will be instructed when to take the second medication — typically up to 48 hours later, and the abortion will take place at home. After taking the second medication, it takes about 5 to 48 hours for the medical abortion to occur.

Taking medication to end a pregnancy may sound easy, but it isn’t. Women report that it’s helpful to have a trusted support person present during a medical abortion to offer comfort.

Common symptoms women experience during a medical abortion include:

  • Painful and strong uterine cramps lasting approximately 6-8 hours
  • Heavy period-like cramps lasting days to a couple of weeks
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding, including blood clots
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever (under 101°)
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Drowsiness
  • Sore breasts
  • Seeing the embryo or the gestational sac when it passes

Now we’ll take a look at specific circumstances that eliminate a medical abortion as an option.

When Is a Medical Abortion Not an Option?

A good healthcare provider will take a thorough health history and consider factors such as your current health, medications you’re taking, and how far along you are in your pregnancy in order to determine if a medical abortion is an option for you.

According to Mayo Clinic, there are circumstances when a medical abortion is not an option, including if:

  • You are too far along in your pregnancy (more than ten weeks since the first day of your last period).
  • You have an ectopic pregnancy (outside of the uterus).
  • You have an IUD (intrauterine device) in your uterus.
  • You have certain medical conditions such as bleeding disorders; anemia; particular heart or blood vessel diseases; severe liver, kidney or lung disease; or an uncontrolled seizure disorder.
  • You are taking certain medications like blood thinners or steroids.
  • You are allergic to the abortion medications.
  • You don’t have access to emergency medical care in case of complications.
  • You have an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • You are being pressured or coerced into having an abortion.

In addition to typical symptoms common to having a medical abortion, there are also risks to consider.

Are There Risks to Having a Medical Abortion?

As mentioned earlier, a medical abortion may sound like an easy option, but it’s important to understand that it is still a procedure that comes with risks. And the risks increase the further along you are in your pregnancy.

Complications and risks of a medical abortion include:

  • Incomplete abortion — requiring a surgical abortion
    • Hemorrhage (heavy bleeding that doesn’t stop)
  • Fever over 101°
  • Life-threatening infection — Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) or sepsis
  • Future infertility – inability to get pregnant when ready or carry a pregnancy successfully
  • An undetected ectopic pregnancy, which is a medical emergency
  • Mental health challenges, particularly if you were pressured into the abortion

Can I Change My Mind if I Took the Abortion Medication?

What happens if you start a medical abortion and then wish you hadn’t? Can you stop the abortion? The answer is sometimes — and only if you have not taken the second medication yet.

We have successfully helped women continue their pregnancies with an Abortion Pill Reversal Protocol after they took the first medication but changed their minds.

Corbella Clinic Is Here To Support You

You are incredibly wise to be here educating yourself despite all the fluctuating emotions that come with an unexpected pregnancy. Corbella Clinic is a safe place where we make space for you to ask the hard questions while exploring your next steps.

We offer pregnancy testing, pre-abortion ultrasounds to determine how far along you are, STI testing and treatment if needed, and more. We’ll never charge you or your insurance for any of our services.

Our hope is that you leave your appointment feeling informed, deeply cared for, and empowered. So make your confidential appointment today and create clarity from confusion!


Abortion pill reversal. Abortion Pill Reversal – Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Mifeprex (mifepristone) information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from

LeCroy, C. (2017, August 31). Hidden abuse of women: Coerced abortions. National Review. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, May 14). Medical abortion. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from’t%20an,after%20seven%20weeks%20of%20pregnancy

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