RU-486, also known as the Abortion Pill, is the name commonly used for an artificial steroid that blocks progesterone, a hormone needed to continue a pregnancy. Approved for use with pregnancies within 70 days of the last menstrual period and considered unsafe beyond that time. The pill, or mifepristone, causes an abortion by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for pregnancy to continue. The abortion pill is administered in three doses, along with another drug, misoprostol, and usually requires three clinic visits. On the first visit, the woman takes three mifepristone abortion pills, which results in the death of the fetus. On Day 3, she takes the second abortion pill, misoprostol, which will cause cramping to expel the fetus. A follow-up visit is required two weeks after taking the abortion pill to ensure that the pregnancy has terminated. If an ultrasound scan shows that the fetus has stopped growing but not been expelled, a surgical abortion will be required.
OTHER NAMES FOR THE ABORTION PILL (RU-486):
Mifepristone is the generic name for RU-486. In the U.S., RU-486 is sold under the brand names Mifeprex® and Early Option®.
An RU-486 abortion involves two drugs
When taken alone, RU-486 causes a complete abortion only about 60% of the time. A second drug, a prostaglandin, is given 48 hours later to increase the abortion pill’s effectiveness. The prostaglandin causes uterine contractions to help expel the embryo.Misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) is the prostaglandin used with RU-486 in the U.S.
ADVERSE EVENTS AND SIDE EFFECTS OF RU-486 ABORTION PILL
In U.S. trials of RU-486/misoprostol, at least 99% of patients experienced at least one of the following abortion pill side effects:
- Abdominal pain (cramping) (97%)
- Nausea (67%)
- Headache (32%)
- Vomiting (34%)
- Diarrhea (23%)
- Dizziness (12%)
- Fatigue (9%)
- Back pain (9%)
- Uterine hemorrhage (7%)
- Fever (4%)
- Viral infections (4%)
- Vaginitis (4%)
- Rigors (chills/shaking)(3%)
“More than one adverse event was reported for most patients. … Approximately 23% of the adverse events … were judged to be severe.”
“[The] FDA is aware of four women in the United States who died from sepsis (severe illness caused by infection of the bloodstream) after medical abortion with Mifeprex and misoprostol.”
WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE THE ABORTION PILL (RU-486)
The FDA advises that the Abortion Pill (RU-486) should NOT be taken if any one of the following circumstances apply:
- It has been more than 70 days … since your last menstrual period began.
- You have an IUD. It must be taken out. …
- Your provider has told you that you have a pregnancy outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy). [Note: About 2% of pregnancies are outside the uterus.]
- You have problems with your adrenal glands (chronic adrenal failure).
- You take a medicine to thin your blood.
- You have a bleeding problem.
- You take certain steroid medications.
- You cannot return for the next 2 visits after taking the abortion pill[2 days and 14 days after taking RU-486].
- You cannot easily get emergency medical help [including ‘blood transfusions, and emergency resuscitation’] in the 2 weeks after you take [the abortion pill – RU-486].
- You are allergic to mifepristone [RU-486], misoprostol, or medicines that contain misoprostol such as Cytotec or Arthrotec.
* HOW TO CALCULATE LENGTH OF PREGNANCY
Doctors calculate the length of pregnancy by counting from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP), that is, about two weeks prior to conception (fertilization). So “up to 70 days LMP” means up to 9 weeks after conception.
Our Pregnancy Resource Center offers individual consultation and accurate information about all pregnancy options including abortion procedures and risks; however we do not recommend, offer or refer for the Morning After Pill, Abortion Pill (RU486) or any other abortion-causing drug or procedure.