Risks

There are a range of side effects that you need to be aware of.

Excessive bleeding

Bleeding will last on average from 9-16 days with a range of up to 70 days.  In about 1 in 100 women, bleeding is so severe that they require a surgical procedure to stop it.

Pain

Pain has been described as being anything from uncomfortable to excruciating, and can continue for several days.

Other Adverse Effects include:

  • Diarrhoea (up to 30% of women)
  • Nausea (up to 70% of women)
  • Vomiting (up to 45% of women)
  • Dizziness, headache, chills, shivering and fever have all also been reported.

Reference:  Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Termination of Pregnancy,  A resource for health professionals

In U.S. trials of RU-486/misoprostol, at least 99% of patients experienced at least one of the following:

  • abdominal pain (cramping) (97%)
  • nausea (67%)
  • headache (32%)
  • vomiting (34%)
  • diarrhea (23%)
  • dizziness (12%)
  • fatigue (9%)
  • back pain (9%)
  • uterine hemorrhage (7%)
  • fever (4%)
  • viral infections (4%)
  • vaginitis (4%)
  • rigors (chills/shaking)(3%)

More than one adverse event was reported for most patients, with approximately 23% of all adverse events considered serious.

Australian Study

An Australian study found that RU486 abortions carried a much higher risk of adverse events than surgical abortion.  This study found:

  • 3.3% of women sought emergency hospital treatment after administration
  • 5.7% of women required hospital admission
  • 1 in 200 women suffered severe hemorrhage

Death

One death has been reported in Australia as caused by the use of RU486 and misoprostol and 14 deaths worldwide.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these very serious side effects:

  • fever of 38 degrees C or higher

  • fainting

  • fast heartbeat

  • stomach/abdominal pain or tenderness.

Just because you experience bleeding and pain, it does not mean the drugs have worked to end your pregnancy.   You may still be pregnant and you must return to your healthcare provider in 14 days for a check up.

Up to 20% of women suffer serious, prolonged mental health problems following abortion.   We do not know whether women undergoing medical abortion are more likely to suffer mental health problems, but it is possible that this is the case.

This would be because the woman is conscious while her abortion is taking place (as opposed to sedated for a surgical abortion), that she is actively participating in the abortion herself, that it is a prolonged and painful process and that she may see the embryo expelled from her body.

 

References

Medical Officer’s Review of Amendments 024 and 033, Final Reports for the U.S. Clinical Trials Inducing Abortion up to 63 Days Gestational Age and Complete Responses Regarding Distribution System and Phase 4 Commitments,Finalized November 22, 1999 (dated January 27, 2000)

Gary MM, Harrison DJ. Analysis of severe adverse events related to the use of mifepristone as an abortifacient.Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2006;40(2):191-7 .

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