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What is Mifepristone?

Mifepristone is a medication typically used in combination with Misoprostol to bring about an abortion during pregnancy. Learn more about how this drug is used, the side effects, and more.

Written by

Sally Rashid

Reviewed by

Dr. B

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Mifepristone, sometimes called Mifeprex or RU-486, is a common medication used in medication abortion treatment. During a medication abortion, mifepristone is the first of two medicines that one would take to complete the treatment. When taken together, mifepristone, along with the second medicine (misoprostol), are up to 98% effective at ending a pregnancy up to 11 weeks. Mifepristone is safe, FDA-approved and has been used in the United States for abortion treatment for over 20 years.  

What does mifepristone do?

Mifepristone is an oral medication used to induce abortion. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is a hormone that is needed to continue a pregnancy. Blocking progesterone causes the pregnancy to stop growing.  The second medication used for medication abortion treatment, misoprostol, is taken 1-2 days after mifepristone. Misoprostol causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus and complete the abortion. 

What is mifepristone used for?

Mifepristone is used in medication abortion to end pregnancies up to 11 weeks gestational age. By blocking the hormone progesterone, mifepristone ends the pregnancy. Mifepristone, along with misoprostol, is also used to medically manage miscarriages, especially in cases of missed miscarriage where a developing pregnancy has no electrical activity but there’s been no bleeding or cramping.

What are the side effects of mifepristone?

Most of the time, people feel fine after taking mifepristone. Some people have mild cramping or bleeding. Either way, it’s fine - whether you have bleeding or not. You must take the second medication, misoprostol, even if you have started bleeding after taking mifepristone. 

Some other uncommon side effects of mifepristone include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Serious side effects are very rare, occurring in less than 0.5% of people taking this medication alone. Vaginal bleeding or spotting is normal for up to 30 days following a medication abortion treatment, but if you’re bleeding through more than two pads an hour (edge to edge) for at least two hours in a row, or if you otherwise feel ill, contact your provider. If other side effects increase in intensity or return, you should also speak with your provider to ensure there are no complications.

For more information on side effects following taking mifepristone or having a medication abortion, visit:

What is a medication abortion?

A medication abortion is a medical procedure that generally involves taking two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, to stop a pregnancy’s growth and expel the contents of the uterus, similar to an early miscarriage. Medication abortion is typically performed before 10 weeks in gestational age, and often feels like a heavy, crampy period.

Many people choose medication abortion over a surgical option because they prefer to have their abortion at home or in another comfortable setting, sometimes without a visit to a clinic. Medication abortion feels more natural than the surgical option for some people, as well. The reason why people choose which option is best for them is a very personal choice that only they can make.

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To proceed with medication abortion, you’ll generally begin by calculating your gestational age either via last missed period date, ultrasound, or by using date of conception. A provider would then get a good picture of your health history before prescribing you the FDA-approved abortion medications. 

How long does a medical abortion take?

A medication abortion takes between 1-3 days to complete but some symptoms, like vaginal bleeding or spotting, may last for a few weeks after the treatment is over. First, you’ll meet with a provider who’ll prescribe the abortion medications. Next, you’ll take one tablet, mifepristone. Some people experience vaginal bleeding or cramping after this first medication alone, some people don’t — either is okay. Either way, you must take the second medicine (misoprostol).

Between 24-48 hours after taking mifepristone, you’ll take four tablets of misoprostol, a medication that causes uterine cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus. Generally, you’ll experience vaginal bleeding within about 6-24 hours after taking the misoprostol, and heavy bleeding can last for a few hours. The amount you bleed will vary depending on your gestational age.

Evidence supports that pregnant people are able to self-manage medication abortion treatment without a clinic visit, especially if they have ample information about what to expect before, during, and after. In some cases, a follow up may be necessary to confirm that the treatment was successful or to rule out complications should there be any ongoing issues following the procedure.

What is a surgical abortion?

Surgical abortions are performed in a clinic or hospital and are 99% effective in ending a pregnancy. You may hear a surgical abortion referred to as a suction or aspiration procedure because in the majority of surgical abortions, the pregnancy is removed from the uterus using light suction. These procedures are used in pregnancies up to 14-16 weeks after your last menstrual period. 

Surgical abortion after 16 weeks is usually done with a dilation and evacuation procedure. This procedure generally involves cervical dilation, but does not require cutting or scraping.

How long can I wait to have an abortion?

The sooner you make a decision regarding your pregnancy, the more options you’ll have for treatment. Your options can vary depending on your gestational age and the laws of your state. 

Medical abortions are generally not performed after 10-12 weeks after your last menstrual period, so if you prefer that route, you’ll need to make your decision before the end of the first trimester. Some states have restrictions on medication abortions, so moving forward with a medication abortion prior to 10 weeks gestational age is recommended. After that, you’ll require a surgical abortion, the allowed timing of which may vary by state. 

Surgical abortions generally offer more time but it’s good to check the laws of your state to ensure you’re a candidate. You can visit this website here to determine the options in your state.

Buying Mifepristone and Misoprostol together online?

Mifepristone is an important component in medication abortion because it essentially ends the pregnancy and increases the success of the treatment. Blocking progesterone stops the pregnancy's growth and makes the task of misoprostol, the emptying of the contents of the uterus, easier. Misoprostol, is taken 1-2 days following the mifepristone and generally encourages heavy cramping and vaginal bleeding in a few hours.

If you’re looking for how to get misoprostol and mifepristone online to complete your medication abortion safely and completely, we recomend using a trustworthy online telehealth service. 

Hey Jane makes getting mifepristone and misoprostol together affordable and simple by offering medical abortion services online via secure chat with one of our medical providers. Begin by confirming that you’re eligible for a medication abortion in your state. Next, you’ll connect with a provider and we’ll get a good picture of your needs, prescribe your medications, and answer any questions you might have.

How to get an abortion at home

Medication abortion is rising in popularity and telehealth options make getting an abortion at home convienient and safe. Laws around using telehealth services to begin your medication abortion process change frequently. To find options currently available to you, check here

Hey Jane provides telehealth medication abortion sevices for adults under 10 weeks. Confirm that you live in an eligible state here and then speak with one of our licensed abortion providers. If approved, we’ll send your medications to the address of your choice (as long it’s in one of the states where we’re operating) to you in an unmarked box to protect your privacy. They should arrive on your doorstep in about 1 to 3 days.

For more information, check out our Resources page, as well as our Frequently Asked Questions page for answers to common questions. We also provide text-support 7 days a week, from 10am to 8pm EST at (405) 342-3654. Feel free to text us with any questions or concerns. 

Meet Hey Jane: modern, virtual abortion care

Learn more

Written by

Sally Rashid

Sally Rashid is a Registered Nurse and writer living in Detroit, Michigan. She has worked in reproductive care for a decade as a doula, nurse, and advocate for abortion access. Sally was a 2020 winner of Yes, And Laughter Lab's competitive incubation program for her work as writer and co-creator of Darling, a dark comedy about an abortion clinic at constant risk of closure. On top of writing for the beauty and healthcare industries, Sally is an all-around creative lady who loves music, making connections, and chilling with her two cats.

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