How does medical abortion work?

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Medical abortion causes a process like a miscarriage. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the combined use of the medicines mifepristone and misoprostol1 because the combination has higher effectiveness and fewer side effects.  When mifepristone is not available or accessible; then the next best method is to use misoprostol alone.

  • Mifepristone and misoprostol – mifepristone blocks receptors for progesterone, a hormone necessary to maintain a pregnancy. It also makes the uterus more receptive to misoprostol.  Misoprostol causes contractions of the uterus, which result in the expulsion of the pregnancy tissue, clots and blood. 2 This combination is 98% effective.
  • Misoprostol alone - misoprostol causes the cervix to soften and the uterus to contract, resulting in the expulsion of the pregnancy, passing clots and blood. When misoprostol is used alone it is less effective (84%)12 than when used in combination with mifepristone and more misoprostol is needed. Nevertheless this is a very safe method for women if they don’t have access to mifepristone.3