What is the Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill should not be confused with the morning after pill as it is intended for use within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy whereas the morning after pill should only be used within 3 to 5 days after intercourse. The abortion pill, mifepristone and misoprostol, is an approved pregnancy termination method in South Africa and can only be prescribed by a medical doctor.

How does an Abortion Pill work?

Both abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, are usually used in order to terminate a pregnancy. Mifepristone causes the embryo to detach from the uterus thereby cutting off essential nutrients and oxygen carried by the blood. Misoprostol is then taken two days later and triggers the evacuation of the embryo remnants through the vagina. This often appears as a heavy period.

It is advisable that you consult with your medical practitioner for a further understanding of how the abortion pill works.

Is the Abortion Pill safe?

The abortion pill is usually safer than a medical abortion or surgical abortion but should only be considered in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Like any procedure, use of the abortion pill can result in complications but if used under the supervision of a medical doctor, the chances of complications are greatly reduced. Your doctor will be best suited to handle any complications should they arise.

Dangers and Side Effects of the Abortion Pill

Common side effects include abdominal pain, cramping, bleeding and spotting for up to 2 weeks after using the abortion pill. Other side effects that may occur include drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and fevers. Side effects may not occur in every case and if you are experiencing any symptoms that are persisting, you should consult with your medical doctor immediately.

The abortion pill may cause a disturbance in your normal menstrual cycle in some users but usually there are no significant dangers associated with using the abortion pill. However using the abortion pill without the supervision of a medical practitioner or after 8 weeks of pregnancy can be dangerous. Uncontrollable bleeding, severe cramping and infections can arise without correct supervision and for this reason, you should never buy or use the abortion pill from illegal sources.

Always consult with your doctor or a qualified staff at a family planning clinic before you commence with any abortion method.

48 thoughts on “What is the Abortion Pill?

  • January 25, 2010 at 9:41 am

    hi-i had sex the second last day of my period. i drank the morning after pill the day after that. my period finished but then i bled again a week later. was that a period? and i did a pregnancy test that came back negative, starting this week if my period doenst come i’ll be a week late. cpild escapelle have not worked?

  • January 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Alice

    Actually many doctors are pro-choice but may still not prescribe the pill. An abortion is not just a matter of ‘popping’ a pill, going home and calling in if you are not feeling well. The host of complications that may arise makes many doctors hesitant to prescribe the pill and understandably so. Apart from the potential of litigation should something go wrong and blame is laid upon them, there is also the issue about those pro-life fanatics who are prepared to take a life in some countries just to prove their point. The doctor runs the risk of losing his patient base or even his life if he does not tread carefully. However given the availability of abortion clinics like Marie Stopes throughout the country, there is no need for doctors to have to take on this issue in their private practice. There have been many reports about the attitude of some nurses in the government facilities but if you have experienced this type of service at a private abortion clinic, then you can lay a complaint. If you deal with a private abortion clinic, you can access these emergency medical services should you have any complications. There is a Maries Stopes Clinic in Sandton which is about 50km away from Benoni so that is one option for you. Click Here for the contact details of your nearest Marie Stopes Clinic.

  • January 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm


    Please note that i am not a teenager. i am in my mid twenties, in a long term relationship, a mother, and on the birth control pill- which in my case apears not to have been 100% effective. I missed my period and subsequently tested myself to see whether i was pregnant- i am. I understand that doctors are entitled to their own moral and ethical standings but are there none who are pro-choice?

    I have done the research regarding the abortion pill and feel that this is the right choice for me since i am in no financial situation to support another child. However, in trying to find someone who could help me, i approached a clinic where i was bluntly called a “whore” by the sister in charge?! Then i tried to find a referral for a doctor online and contacted a “doctor” who offered to meet me at a KFC to hand over the pills?! Again, are these my choices?

    I am just trying to find a doctor who can prescribe me the pills and who, should something happen (god forbid), i can call for help instead of the threat of bleeding to death.

  • January 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Hi JJ
    If you bought a home pregnancy test that is made by a reputable company, it should be sensitive enough to detect pregnancy within a week after intercourse. Cheaper or less sensitive tests may take longer. Most doctors do not depend on a urine pregnancy test to make their decisions. They will conduct a blood test and there are two types – one which confirms the pregnancy and the other that gives an idea of how far along you are. This is further explained in the Pregnancy – Urine or Blood Test? article on this website. Your GP may not just prescribe the abortion pill – he may advise you to go to a gynaecologist or an abortion clinic to get the pill. This varies among practitioners as discussed above by the other reader.

  • January 14, 2010 at 9:33 am


    I am on Triphasil and have not had my period during the red section. last pill today. I started spotting on the Saterday and then my husband and I made love and all spotting has stopped. I am 30 years old but we have both decided no kids. How soon can I do a home pregnancy test and if positive can I go to my local GP for a prescription for a medical abortion pill. Would he have to ddo a blood test or would a urine test be sufficient.

  • January 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Why are doctors not prepared to help? Are they not the one’s who are supposed to be prescribing this pill? i live in benoni and have not been able to find a doctor who is willing to prescribe it. What do i do now? Is there someone out there willing to help? I now see how people are making a living selling the pills illegally to girls who are as desperate as i am.

  • January 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm


    I have actually taken the abortion pill and would like to warn any one with the idea that this is an easy solution that it is not. You will be inducing a miscarriage which is a painful experience and its going to last 2 weeks.
    Before taking it I would suggest doing further research on what happened during clinical trails as that gives a clearer description of what could and possibly will happen to your body and the baby you have chosen not to have.

    And for those who think now there’s a pill I can take I did not use contraceptives or manage to take the morning after pill think twice, as I would not quickly recommend this as an option or ever think of taking it again.

  • December 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Bubbles

    Cipla is a pharmaceutical company as far as I know. You may have used one of their drugs. In all likelihood, you may have been on a course of antibiotics. And this can definitely affect your oral contraceptive and cause it to fail. You can read this article on doxycycline, a common antibiotic used to treat acne and take note of the warnings about using it in conjunction with an oral contraceptive.

    Anyway, you need to take a pregnancy test and then confirm whether you are pregnant or not. If so, then you have to consider your options. But until then, do not let it stress you out. Do the test!

  • December 8, 2009 at 11:10 am

    i am on the triphasil and it has been two weeks since i past the red of the pill but yet no period has come…I have taken in between a pill called Cipla for the use of my acne…please advise me as I already have 3 mouths to feed…

  • December 8, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Hi Simphiwe

    Nobody can force you to do something you do not want to do. If you boyfriend threatens to kill himself, then he needs help and you should inform his family. If he is threatening you then you need to go to the police. The decision is yours to make and while it should be made in consultation with your partner, it is your body and your decision in the end. Nevertheless discuss the matter with him and identify the concerns he has about the pregnancy. There is no way to estimate the maximum number of days that a bleed may occur. On average it is two weeks but this can differ from person to person. Anaemia is common in menstruating women so this should not be the only complication that concerns you. You need to speak to a gynaecologis or counselor at your local family planning clinic and discuss the matter.

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