The Abortion Pill: How Does it Work?

A photo of the little white abortion pill, mifepristone, on a bright blue background under the title The Abortion Pill, Facts, Stats and Reversal
How does the Abortion Pill work? The term "Abortion Pill" refers to two pills containing different medicines: mifepristone and misoprostol.

The abortion pill (a.k.a medical/chemical abortion) is currently the fastest-growing form of abortion in the United States today. This article outlines what a medical abortion is, how it works, and how a medical abortion can be stopped via abortion pill reversal.

How Does The Abortion Pill Work?

So, how does the abortion pill work? Ultimately, a medical abortion occurs after taking two pills. Each pill contains a different medicine.


  • (Mifeprex) blocks progesterone, a hormone, essential for a healthy pregnancy. Given as the first abortion pill, this drug cuts off blood supply and nutrients to the developing embryo.


  • Taken as the second pill, this pill causes the uterus to expel the embryo. In short, misoprostol induces early labor.

Together, these medicines work to stop the growth of pregnancy before inducing labor. Dr. Lile (board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology) discusses medical abortion. Moreover, he discusses why many abortion providers don’t disclose this information to their clients:

What To Expect

The process of a medical abortion can be very uncomfortable. Furthermore, it can be dangerous. The process of a medical abortion has three parts:

  • The First Visit
    • Firstly, a woman visits her abortion provider and is given the first pill. Afterward, she is sent home with the second pill.
  • 24 to 48 Hours Later
    • Secondly, she takes the second pill at home.
  • Seven to Fourteen Days Later
    • Lastly, the woman returns to her abortion provider for confirmation that the abortion was complete.

The classic symptoms of miscarriage occur. Someone who has taken the abortion pill may experience these symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bleeding or severe spotting
  • Discharge of tissue or fluid

Notably, these symptoms may occur for 9-16 days. However, around 8% of women may experience bleeding for 30 days or more. If the abortion is not fully successful, further steps are taken to induce pregnancy loss. Without delay, either more medication or a surgical abortion is required.

Risks and Side Effects of the Abortion Pill

According to data collected by Micromedex, women may experience:

  • headache (up to 44%)
  • nausea (43-61%)
  • vomiting (18-26%)
  • diarrhea (12-40%)
  • fatigue (10%)
  • cramping and pain (96%)

As with any major medical procedure, there are also chances of experiencing post-procedure hardships like PTSD and depression. 

Warning Signs

With this in mind, more severe symptoms may occur. These symptoms may be signs of life-threatening issues. While tough symptoms are a part of the medical abortion process, a client should contact a professional immediately if they experience:

  • heavy bleeding that soaks through two thick, full-sized sanitary pad per hour for two hours
  • persistent stomach pain or discomfort
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea, with or without fever
  • fever of 100.4° or higher for more than four hours.

Other Concerns

Additionally, there are several other risks and factors women should know about the abortion pill before taking it.

  • The medical abortion process may mask symptoms of ectopic pregnancy
  • Taking misoprostol vaginally (as some providers suggest) is hazardous. Deadly infections may occur as a result.
  • If a medical abortion is used more than 70 days after your last menstrual period (LMP), this increases the likelihood of experiencing adverse health effects. In the same way, this may increase the probability of causing an incomplete abortion.
  • Again, emergency medical situations may arise from a medical abortion. Sadly, not all abortion providers have immediate access to a surgical facility. 

Abortion Pill Reversal

If you have only taken the first abortion pill, reversal is possible! The process begins by contacting a medical professional who has been trained in the reversal process. Equally important is how quickly you seek help. With this in mind, the earlier you contact a medical professional, the better.

A medical professional in your area can be found via the abortion pill reversal hotline: 1-(877)-558-0333.

Many lives have been saved through abortion pill reversal. It’s safe, effective, and ministered under the care of a medical professional.

Find out more

The Abortion Pill Booklet provides quick and helpful information about the medical abortion procedure. 

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