Frequently Asked Questions – RU486
After the FDA removed the in-person dispensing requirement of RU486 in December 2021(1), access to medical abortions has become easier for women as they can use a telehealth provider and certified pharmacy rather than an in-person visit with a prescriber.
At Alpha Center, we believe that an informed decision is the best decision. As such, we want to provide answers to frequently asked questions surrounding RU486.
What is RU486?
RU486, also known as a medical or chemical abortion, the “missed period pill” or “Plan C”, is a combination of two drugs, Mifeprex (and its generic version, Mifepristone) and Misoprostol (or Cytotec). (2) The two are taken under the direction of a physician with the goal of ending an intrauterine pregnancy within 70 days of conception.
What is the difference between a medication abortion and the morning after pill?
The morning after pill (or Plan B) is a completely different medication called levonorgestrel and can be purchased over the counter. This medication can prevent a pregnancy before it starts by attempting to delay or stop ovulation, by taking the medication within 120 hours of unprotected sex, which would prevent fertilization. For more information, see our blog post on the topic.
How long can I take RU486?
A medication abortion may be used up to 70 days since a patient’s last menstrual period. If you are not sure how far along you are or when your last period was, an ultrasound should be used to determine the gestational age of the pregnancy. Alpha Center in Fort Collins can provide you with an ultrasound to determine how far along you are during our pre-abortion screenings at no cost to you.
Who should not have a medication abortion?
Some women should not take Mifeprex or its generic counterpart. If one or more of these apply to you, you should not take medication to end your pregnancy.
- The pregnancy is ectopic
- You have a history of adrenal or bleeding problems, or you are currently on blood thinning medications
- You have allergies to the medications used in a medical abortion
- Your pregnancy is older than 70 days
- You currently have an IUD
- You cannot attend a follow up appointment
- You are currently breastfeeding (2)
- You have irregular periods and cannot determine how far along you might be
I’ve decided to get a medication abortion. How does it work?
A medication abortion consists of two pills that work together to both end and expel a pregnancy. These combinations may include mifepristone plus misoprostol, misoprostol alone, and methotrexate plus misoprostol. Most commonly, Mifeprex (mifepristone) and misoprostol are used together and taken with at least 24 hours between them.
Mifeprex is taken in a single oral dose, and the medication works by blocking progesterone from the uterus, which ends the pregnancy. Then, Misoprostol is taken between 24 – 48 hours following the Mifeprex dosage, and this medication causes the uterus to expel the contents of the uterus within 2-24 hours. Following the medication abortion, the patient should follow up with their healthcare provider to confirm that they are no longer pregnant and that no tissue remains in the uterus. (3)
Are there side-effects or risks associated with medical abortions?
As with any medication or medical procedure, there are side effects and risks associated with medical abortions (RU-486).
Commonly experienced side effects include:
- Abdominal pain or uterine cramping
- back pain
- nausea or vomiting (about 10% of patients)
- To see more, visit our post on this topic specifically.
Emergent symptoms, while rare, require the immediate attention of a doctor. Have someone take you to the ER and let them know that you took RU-486 as this will help them determine the best course of treatment. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive bleeding (soaking through 2 or more maxi-pads in an hour)
- Fever above 100.2 for longer than 24 hours or 102.2 at any point
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
What is the rate of failure of a medication abortion?
At 10 weeks gestation, there is an up to 10% risk of the medication abortion being incomplete, or leaving tissue behind and requiring a surgical abortion. This is why we recommend getting STD testing done regardless of the type of abortion you are considering. At Alpha Center, we offer pre-abortion screenings. These appointments include a pregnancy test, gestational dating and viability ultrasound, and STD screening, which are offered at no cost to you. Request one today.
What is abortion pill reversal?
If you have only taken the first pill and it has been less than 72 hours (though the sooner, the better), a reversal may be possible. Call (877) 558-0333 to be connected to a provider or click on this link to learn more about what abortion pill reversal is.
- Mifeprex Medication guide: https://www.fda.gov/media/72923/download
Written by Kristen Long for Alpha Center. Last updated June 28, 2022.