This is a procedure in which the mother swallows pills in order to terminate her baby, and it is performed up to the 10th week of pregnancy. The procedure involves two steps:
At the abortion clinic or doctor’s office, the woman takes pills which contain Mifepristone, also called RU-486. RU-486 blocks the action of a hormone called Progesterone. Progesterone is naturally produced in the mother’s body to stabilize the lining of the uterus when RU-486 blocks Progesterone, the lining of the mother’s uterus breaks down, cutting off blood and nourishment to the baby, who then dies inside the mother’s womb. It is important to note that even after it has been taken, it is possible to reverse the effects of RU-486 and save the baby, if Progesterone is administered the sooner, the better.
24-48 hours after taking RU-486, the woman takes Misoprostol, also called Cytotec, that is administered either orally or vaginally. RU-486 and Misoprostol together cause severe cramping, contractions, and often heavy bleeding, to force the dead baby out of the woman’s uterus. The process can be very intense and painful, and the bleeding and contractions can last from a few hours to several days. While she could lose her baby anytime and anywhere during this process, the woman will often sit on a toilet as she prepares to expel the child, which she will then flush. She may even see her dead baby within the pregnancy sac. At 9 weeks, for example, the baby will be almost an inch long, and if she looks carefully, she might be able to count the fingers and toes.
After she has disposed of her baby, the woman may have bleeding and spotting for several weeks and bleeding lasts, on average, 9-16 days. 8% of women bleed more than 30 days, and 1% require hospitalization because of heavy bleeding. The failure rate increases as the pregnancy progresses. If failure occurs, she will usually be offered a surgical abortion. For the mother, medical abortion often causes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and heavy bleeding. Maternal deaths have occurred, most frequently due to infection and undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy.