RU-486/Abortion Pill

Before taking RU-486, you should understand what it is, what it could mean to your health and how it works. Call for an appointment and one of our staff will be happy to discuss it with you, confirm if you’re pregnant and advise you on your options.

What is it?

RU-486, also known as “the abortion pill,” is actually a combination of two drugs — mifepristone and misoprostol — that cause early abortion. It is FDA-approved for use in women up to 49 days after their last menstrual period, however it is commonly used “off label” up to 63 days. It is NOT the same as the morning-after pill.

How does it work?

The FDA-approved procedure requires three office visits. On the first visit, the woman is given pills (mifepristone) that cause the death of the embryo (which is the scientific term for the baby until it reaches 8 weeks in utero).  Two days later, if the abortion has not occurred, she is given a second drug (misoprostol) which causes cramping that expels the placenta and embryo.  The last visit is to determine if the procedure has been completed.

Things to Consider

1.) An RU-486 abortion requires 3 visits to a health care provider.

2.) Most medical abortions using mifepristone are completed within 2 weeks, but some can take up to 3 or even 4 weeks.

3.) Associated risks with medication abortion include:

      • Heavy bleeding – Vaginal bleeding lasts for an average of 9-16 days; 1 in 100 women bleed enough to require surgery (D&C) to stop the bleeding.
      • Infection – According to the FDA, “Cases of serious bacterial infection, including very rare cases of fatal septic shock, have been reported.” This means that some Mifeprex users have died as a result of total body infection. The FDA issued a health advisory July 19, 2005 and changed safety labeling to warn of the risk of this serious bacterial infection.
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Diarrhea
      • Painful cramping
      • Fever

4.) The mifepristone-misoprostol regimen fails in 8% of uses in pregnancy up to 49 days gestation, 17% at 50-56 days gestation, and 23% at 57-63 days gestation. A surgical abortion is usually done to complete a failed medical abortion.

5.) The abortion pill will not work in the case of an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo lodges outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. If not diagnosed early, there could be a risk of the tube bursting, internal hemorrhage and death in some cases.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, “Issue Update: Mifepristone: An Early Abortion Option,” July 2001; Mifeprex® Medication Guide, Danco Laboratories, LLC, revised 7/19/05; U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Mifeprex package insert. Vaginal Bleeding. Boxed Warnings. & Ectopic Pregnancy; Spitz IM, et al. Early pregnancy termination with mifepristone and misoprostol in the United States. N Engl J Med 1998 338 (18):1241-7.; Paul M, Lichtenberg S, Borgatta L, Grimes DA, Stubblefield PG, Creinin MD, eds. Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care. UK:Wiley-Blackwell 2009. ; U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA issues public health advisory for mifepristone.

See Also

  1. Morning After Pill