Medical Abortion Care - Topic Overview
A medical abortion is the use of medicines to end a
pregnancy. Medical care for a medical abortion is different from medical care
for a surgical abortion. This is because a medical abortion is like a
miscarriage (in this case, caused by medicines) that
takes place at home over 1 to 2 days and does not require your doctor to be
present. After a couple of weeks of bleeding, you then see your doctor for a
Care before a medical abortion
Before a medical
abortion, your doctor will:
- Evaluate your medical history, including any
medicines you are taking.
- Do a physical exam, including a
pelvic examination, to evaluate your health, how long
you have been pregnant, and location of the embryo or
- Perform an
ultrasound to confirm how far along and where the
pregnancy is. Not all doctors choose to do this step.
- Discuss your
decision to have an abortion and your feelings about the
- Discuss your plans for future pregnancies and birth
- Explain how the medicines will work, possible side
effects (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common), and when to call your
doctor. It is important for your doctor to know whether you:
- Have access to a telephone, to call if you
- Have transportation to a health care facility if
you need to be evaluated.
- Will be able to return for a follow-up
- Are prepared for the cramping pain and bleeding that
will occur as the uterine contents are passed.
- Understand that a
surgical abortion will be needed if a medical abortion fails to complete the
In addition to the medicines used to cause an abortion,
your doctor will give you medicines to minimize side effects, with specific
instructions for their use. These medicines are used:
- For cramping pain caused by uterine
- To prevent nausea or vomiting.
- To prevent
All women who have
Rh-negative blood type will be given Rh immunoglobulin to prevent
Rh sensitization after an abortion.
If you need to call your doctor about your symptoms during a medical abortion, be prepared to provide information about:
- How heavy the bleeding is, compared with your
normal menstrual bleeding. The heaviest bleeding should stop 1 to 2 hours after
passing the pregnancy tissue.
- The number and types of pads used in
1 hour and the total number of soaked pads used.
- The presence and
size of blood clots.
- Whether any pregnancy tissue has been
- The severity of your cramping or pain.
Care after a medical abortion
Carefully follow all
of your doctor's instructions and review what-to-expect information after a
Follow these instructions:
- Most women can return to normal activities in 1
to 2 days after the uterus has cleared. Avoid strenuous exercise for 1 to 2
- Do not have sexual intercourse for 1 to 2 weeks or as
advised by your doctor.
- Be sure to use birth control when you
start having sex again. And use condoms to prevent infection. For immediately
effective birth control, you can use a barrier method (such as a diaphragm,
cervical cap, or condom). A copper intrauterine device (IUD) is effective immediately
after it is placed in the uterus. If you start hormone birth control pills,
patches, or injections right after the procedure, be sure to use a backup
method until the hormone medicine becomes effective. For more information, see
- Do not rinse the vagina with fluids (douche). This could increase your risk
of infections that can lead to
pelvic inflammatory disease.