The Lowdown on Mifepristone

What is RU 486?

RU 486, better known as the “abortion pill” is a non-invasive way of terminating a pregnancy. It is generally used very early in the pregnancy, usually up until the 8th week. It actually consists of taking two different medications. They are mifepristone and misoprostol. Both of them are FDA approved and are up to 97% effective at terminating a pregnancy. RU 486 is used as an alternative to a surgical abortion. RU 486 can be a viable option for terminating a pregnancy for people who are dating or married and are not ready to support a child.

How Does RU 486 Work?

RU 486 works in two different ways. The first pill that is taken, mifepristone, is what actually ends the pregnancy. It works by actually blocking an important hormone called progesterone. The progesterone is actually the hormone that maintains a pregnancy. Without it, the lining of the uterus begins to shed. The mifepristone also causes the cervix to soften, and bleeding can occur. The second pill, misoprostol, is what actually causes the body to eject the pregnancy. It can anywhere from a few hours to a whole day for the body to rid itself of the pregnancy. Bleeding and cramping are the most notable side effects, and sometimes nausea can occur.

Will RU 486 Completely Replace Surgical Abortion and How Effective is it?

RU 486 will probably not completely replace surgical abortion methods. This is because it can only be taken very early in the pregnancy, only up to around 8 weeks (That is according to U.S. law. In other countries it can be used for a week or two longer). After the 8th week, a surgical abortion is needed in order to terminate the pregnancy. If taken correctly the abortion pill is anywhere from 95% to 97% effective in ending a pregnancy.

What is the Background of RU 486?

French scientists and researchers were actually the ones to discover the pill and what it could do for the medical abortion industry and women. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the pill when it was first discovered and released for market research in the early 1980’s. It was used throughout Europe for a number of years before it was made available in the United States. The FDA approved it in 2000. It has had its share of protesters throughout its history, but today is a viable option for a non-surgical alternative for abortion and is widely used throughout the United States.

Where is RU 486 Being Used Today?

RU 486 is being used in a total of 36 countries around the world including the United States, Guam, France, the United Kingdom,and Spain. In the United States it is only available through medical providers, pharmacists cannot dispense it.

How Is RU 486 Administered?

RU 486 is a pill to be taken orally. The first pill is actually taken in the office of a medical provider. Some providers require you to stay for a short observation, maybe an hour or two. The doctor then sends a woman home with the misoprostol, the pills that must be taken in order to expel the pregnancy from the body. The misoprostol is taken 24-72 hours after taking the mifepristone. Bleeding and cramping can start before the misoprostol is taken, but it will intensify after it is taken, as the pregnancy is being pushed from the body.

What Are the Side Effects of RU 486?

Side effects include bleeding and cramping as the uterus contracts and pushes the pregnancy out of the body. The bleeding can be heavy at times, as well as the cramping. Some women experience nausea, vomiting and headaches. It is different for everyone. Severe side effects are rare, but the possibility of losing too much blood can happen. Sometimes RU 486 doesn’t work completely, and a surgical abortion is needed to complete the process. Two weeks after a woman takes the initial pill in the doctor’s office, she is required to return for an exam. The doctor can then determine if the abortion was complete. Cramping and bleeding may continue for up to 4 to 6 weeks afterwards.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages?

One of the advantages of RU 486 is that a woman can undergo an abortion in the safety and privacy of her own environment. She can undergo an abortion on her own terms. The surgical abortion process can be a frightening experience for some women, so choosing the RU 486 option can lessen the fear of having an abortion. Some of the disadvantages include the fact that it may not be totally effective, and a surgical abortion may still be needed in order to complete the process. The side of effects of RU 486 can also be extensive for some women, and it has been known to cause heavy bleeding.

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