8 Abortion Pill Side Effects You Must Know

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Side Effects Of Abortion Pills You Must Know

Abortion pills are an option for women who need to terminate a pregnancy, as long as they are under 9 weeks in. While less invasive than surgical abortions, medical pill abortions also have some serious side effects. Bleeding, cramps, and pain will be unavoidable, but women may also experience headaches, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.

If you’re faced with having to undergo a medical abortion in your first trimester, you may want to prepare yourself for some of the possible side effects of the abortion pill. While you will no doubt be impacted emotionally and mentally, the focus here is on the physical side effects.

The abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, can be used to terminate a pregnancy within the first 9 weeks. They do not require any sort of surgical procedure and can be taken in the privacy of your own home.

While less invasive, abortion pills should be taken with caution, under medical supervision, and in a legally authorized clinic or hospital. Self-medicating or ordering pills online is never a good idea. For girls under 18 years of age, state laws often require that parental consent be given before a medical abortion can be done.1

Side Effects Of Abortion Pills

1. Bleeding

Bleeding is not so much a side effect of the abortion pills but a sign that the pills are working.

Mifepristone, the first pill, detaches the fetus from the uterus. This may cause some bleeding in some women within 8 hours.

Misoprostol, the second pill, is a prostaglandin that brings on contractions in the uterus to enable it to empty. This causes heavy bleeding, more than with a regular period. You may also expel tissue and blood clots. The bleeding starts within 4 hours and this process typically takes between 3 and 5 hours, though it may last longer.2

Wear a sanitary pad to absorb the bleeding and to keep track of any spotting. Even if you think the flow has petered out, keep one handy, just in case.

Some women may experience a bit of bleeding and spotting as much as 4 weeks after an abortion.

Caution: Continuous, Heavy Bleeding

Very heavy bleeding or hemorrhaging affects about 2 in 1,000 women.3 If you are soaking through 2 pads in 2 hours or passing very large blood clots the size of a lemon or bigger, you are bleeding very heavily. It’s also a cause for concern if you pass blood clots for more than 2 hours.4 Please get emergency medical help.

2. Pain

Pain in the abdomen and the pelvic region typically begins within 3 hours of taking the misoprostol, once your uterus starts contracting. It is quite like your period pain, and the pain is more if you usually have painful periods. If you are in your 8th or 9th week of pregnancy, it’ll probably hurt more than if you are in your 7th week. Pain relief medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, is safe to take. However, health authorities advise against using aspirin to manage the pain as it can increase bleeding.5 If abdominal or back pain is so extreme that you are unable to stand up because of it, seek immediate help from a doctor.6

3. Fever And Chills

Some women may also experience fever and/or chills after taking the pills.7 The American Pregnancy Association advises contacting your clinic or doctor if your fever goes above 100.4°F.8

4. Diarrhea

The medication will often cause diarrhea, which involves passing 3 or more bowel movements that are watery or loose in a single day.9 Should this happen to you, it’s important to stay hydrated.10 However, contact a doctor if diarrhea persists beyond 24 hours.11

5. Nausea And Vomiting

The pills can sometimes make you feel nauseous. If you experience vomiting within an hour or so of taking the pill, inform your doctor immediately so a replacement pill can be administered as quickly as possible. If you throw up the pill, it could render the dose ineffective.12

6. Headaches

Headaches are another common side effect of taking abortion pills. Some women may also feel dizzy.13 The best thing to do is allow yourself some downtime to rest. While you may not have undergone a surgery, the process can take its toll on your system.

7. Incomplete Abortion Or Continued Pregnancy

Sometimes the medication may not work exactly as planned. This may result in incomplete expulsion or continuation of the pregnancy. In such cases, surgical intervention may be required. This happens in approximately 2 to 10 percent of all patients. Watch out for prolonged pain, pain felt when you press down on the abdominal region, cramps, or continued bleeding in the weeks following the abortion.14

8. Other Risks

Beware of where and how you undergo a medical abortion. Avoid purchasing pills online. Trying to sidestep the legal route of going through a certified doctor by using an online drug retailer poses a host of risks. Besides being illegal, the drugs themselves may not be authentic and may not work as advertised. If they’re improperly manufactured, they might even put you at risk of major health issues involving an incomplete or botched abortion attempt. You could also end up with severe bleeding and cramps due to inaccuracy in dosage. If the pills are contaminated with harmful chemicals, you could even expose yourself to potentially fatal conditions.

References   [ + ]

1. Parental Consent and Notification Laws. Planned Parenthood.
2, 4, 5, 7. Ending pregnancy with medications. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
3, 12, 13. Medical abortion:The Abortion pill up to 10 weeks. British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
6, 8, 9. Possible Physical Side Effects After Abortion. American Pregnancy Association.
10. Diarrhea During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.
11. Ending pregnancy with medications. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
14. Kruse, Beth, Suzanne Poppema, Mitchell D. Creinin, and Maureen Paul. “Management of side effects and complications in medical abortion.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 183, no. 2 (2000): S65-S75.