Up to 12 weeks
Early medical abortion involves taking 2 different medications, usually around 24 to 48 hours apart. The effect of these medications is similar to an early miscarriage.
Following your initial assessment appointment, you'll either:
- be asked to collect your medication from a clinic or hospital
- have your medication delivered to you
- be asked to come to the clinic to take your first set of medication
You'll be given a medication called mifepristone to take first. It blocks the hormone that makes the lining of the uterus (womb) suitable for the fertilised egg.
After taking the first pill, you'll normally be able to continue your everyday activities. In certain circumstances you may be asked to attend a clinic or hospital where you can be monitored by medical staff while taking the medication.
24-48 hours after taking mifepristone, you'll take the second medication. The second pill is called misoprostol and it's usually placed under the tongue, between the cheek and gums, or inserted vaginally. Your healthcare professional will advise you exactly when and how to take misoprostol.
Misoprostol causes the lining of the uterus (womb) to break down and pass through the vagina along with the embryo and blood.
This usually happens 4 to 6 hours after taking misoprostol. This part of the process can be a bit like a very heavy period. It can be painful, but painkillers can be taken and are provided by the abortion service.
Both mifepristone and misoprostol can make you feel quite sick. They can also cause diarrhoea. You may be provided with anti-emetics (anti-sickness tablets) by the abortion service.
After a medical abortion you'll usually bleed for 7 to 14 days, depending on how many weeks pregnant you were. You'll be given information about when you should get in touch for help and who to contact if you experience any complications or think you may still be pregnant.
12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy
Mifepristone and misoprostol can also be used for abortion later in pregnancy.
The procedure is the same as with an early medical abortion, but the actual abortion will take longer and you'll need to take the medication at a clinic. It normally takes between 6 and 12 hours, depending on how many weeks pregnant you are. You may also need to take more than one dose of misoprostol.
This type of abortion is similar to having a later miscarriage.
You can usually return home the same day. Sometimes the pregnancy can take longer to pass and an overnight stay in hospital is required.
After a later medical abortion you'll usually bleed for 7 to 14 days, depending on how many weeks pregnant you were. You may also notice some other symptoms like a small amount of fluid leaking from your breasts.
You'll be given information about when you should get in touch for help and who to contact if you experience any complications or think you may still be pregnant.
Further information from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)