Unexpected pregnancy is scary, and it can make most women feel very concerned and alone. If pregnancy wasn’t a part of your plan, and you’re considering a medical abortion, consider the following side effects – as well as each of your options – so you can make the most empowering decision for you, based on facts and not fear.

What does the medical abortion process look like?

A medical abortion, also known as the abortion pill, requires two different medications that must be prescribed by a doctor in order to terminate a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.


The first drug of a medical abortion is mifepristone, which is typically taken while at the doctor’s office. Mifepristone blocks the flow of progesterone, a hormone that is necessary for a pregnancy to continue.


The second drug in the medical abortion process is usually taken at home, between 24-48 hours after mifepristone. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, like labor, in order to expel the embryo from the uterus.

What are the most common side effects of a medical abortion?

The most commonly experienced side effects of a medical abortion are felt after taking misoprostol, and include the following:

  • Intense cramping
  • Bleeding heavier than a period
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain unrelated to cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Mild fever
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Light lactation

What are the more serious medical abortion complications?

There are a few long-term or serious complications that could arise from a medical abortion, including:

  • An allergic reaction to the medication
  • Infection
  • Incomplete abortion requiring a surgical procedure to complete

What side effects indicate a serious complication?

While not as common, some women experience more intense side effects that could suggest a serious complication has occurred. If any of these side effects are felt following a medical abortion, medical attention should be sought immediately:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Passing clots for two or more hours that are or exceed the size of a lemon
  • Strong, unusual smelling vaginal discharge
  • Excessive bleeding, defined as using two or more pads in an hour

Are there any other complications to consider?

Something to consider if you’re thinking about a medical abortion is how it may affect you emotionally or mentally. While all women are at some degree of risk for experiencing the following emotional side effects of a medical abortion, you may be at higher risk depending on your situation. Emotional side effects of abortion include:

  • Regret
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Inability to sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings

Women who are at higher risk for experiencing these side effects include those who feel pressured or trapped into a medical abortion, those who have struggled with mental health in the past, and those who believe abortion is morally or ethically wrong. Contact Hopeline for more information about emotional side effects or to speak to someone knowledgeable and professional prior to an abortion procedure.

How do I know if a medical abortion is right for me?

Choosing a medical abortion for your unexpected pregnancy is a big decision to make. No matter what you choose, it is a decision that you will have to live with, so it needs to be one you are physically and emotionally okay with.

If you’re unexpectedly pregnant and not sure of what to do next, Hopeline can help. Schedule an appointment for no-cost and confidential services at our center today.




American Pregnancy

Mayo Clinic