Medical Abortion: Everything You Need to Know


Unsafe abortion continues to be a major public health problem in many countries. A woman dies every eighth minute somewhere in a developing country due to complications arising from unsafe abortion. She was likely to have had little or no money to procure safe services, was young – perhaps in her teens – living in rural areas and had little social support to deal with her unplanned pregnancy. She might have been raped or she might have experienced an accidental pregnancy due to the failure of the contraceptive method she was using or the incorrect or inconsistent way she used it. She probably first attempted to self-induce the termination and after that failed, she turned to an unskilled, but the relatively inexpensive, provider. This is a real life story of so many women in developing countries in spite of the major advancements in technologies and in public health.” 

-Dr. Halfdan Mahler Director-General Emeritus WHO, Director-General WHO: 1973-1988 Secretary General, IPPF, 1989-1995 (27th Sept, 2007)

According to WHO, the estimated number of unsafe abortions in 2008 was 21.6 million & currently, it stands at 25 milion/year! This is despite the increasing awareness & availability of resources. 

Why the spike in numbers?

Women, including adolescents, with unwanted pregnancies, often resort to unsafe abortion when they cannot access safe abortion. Barriers to accessing safe abortion include:

  •  restrictive laws
  • poor availability of services
  • high cost
  • stigma
  • the conscientious objection of health-care providers 

[Whichever part of India you are in, if you are facing barriers to access safe and legal abortion, talk to us now. We are there for you and we will ensure that nothing comes in your way to get a safe and legal abortion. Click on this Whatsapp chat button now: header wp icon ]

According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2020, abortion in India is now legal upto 24 weeks of pregnancy for certain circumstances. This bill is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.  

Abortion can either be medical or surgical, depending on the duration of one’s pregnancy. Let’s take a look at medical abortion.

What is Medical Abortion?

Also known as induced abortion, it is when medications (pills, commonly) are given to cause abortion. It’s most effective in the first 6-12 weeks of pregnancy. 

Prior to an abortion:

  1. A missed period is one of the earliest suspicions of pregnancy, especially when one has a regular periodic cycle. It can be confirmed with the help of the pregnancy kit (where pregnancy is confirmed by the presence of hCG hormone in the urine; it is commonly available in medical stores) 

If your menstrual cycle is regular, it can be confirmed within one week from the expected first day of your period. In case of irregular cycles, it can take 2-3 weeks.

  1. In case of the following symptoms, one should suspect pregnancy:
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Increased urination
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Soreness in the breasts
  • Spotting (slight bleeding from the vagina, often mistaken for menses/periods)

[Have you missed your periods and been having these symptoms? Do you fear that you are pregnant? Talk to us now and we will help you through this. You are not alone. We are with you. Click on this Whatsappchat button now: header wp icon ]

  1. Sometimes, heavy bleeding can occur, which may be indicative of miscarriage, again often, misunderstood as menses/periods.

It’s essential that you make sure that the doctor you’re going to, for an abortion, is a registered medical practitioner, (yes, it can be a doctor other than an ObGyn who is trained & cerified in handling MTP cases).  Beware of quacks. 

[If you want to terminate an unplanned pregnancy and you are unmarried, please don’t go to quacks to get an abortion. What most of you don’t know is that abortion is legal in India under many circumstances and you have to feel nothing illegal about getting an abortion. You don’t have to feel ashamed, scared and judged for getting an abortion. Talk to us now and we will help you get a safe and legal abortion that is affordable. Click on this Whatsapp chat button now: header wp icon ]

On visiting your doctor, firstly,  pregnancy & its duration will be confirmed (on the basis of blood tests, physical exam & ultrasonography). And depending upon the results & examination findings as well as your medical history, you’ll be counselled to help you decide which type of abortion is best for you. 

Read more on Ultrasonography at: Ultrasound Scan: Truths & Dares.Bye-bye Fear!

During the medical abortion:

  • If medical abortion has been adviced, the following medications with the following combinations are available:
  1. Combination of Mifepristone & Misoprostol (comes in low & lower doses). Available in form of oral medication & vaginal medication too. 
  2. Combination of Methotrexate & Misoprostol
  3. Misoprostol Only

When your doctor prescribes the medication, a written consent will be taken, also containing information about the medication & its side effects. You’ll be explained & told to visit the doctor if you experience any of the side effects, accordingly.

One must see the doctor if they’ve the following problems before taking the above medications:

  • Previous allergic reaction to the drugs mentioned above
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Known/suspected ectopic pregnancy
  • Heavy smoking
  • History of blood pressure problems
  • Pre existing heart disease
  • History of anemia / blood disease 

On taking the medications for medical abortion, ideally within 2-4 days, one will experience bleeding, similar to the one they experience during menstruation, sometimes accompanied by abdominal pain & cramping. If one has irregular cycles, it’s easily mistaken as their period. 

It may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fatigue etc. The duration of bleeding is very variable, ranging from a few days to mild spotting upto 35 days.  

After the medical abortion:

The chances of an incomplete abortion are higher with medical abortion, that is, why a follow up with your doctor, is of paramount importance, to confirm the abortion is complete. 

And if one experiences any of the side effects discussed by the doctor & mentioned in the written consent form, they should visit the doctor immediately. 

Read more at: What is Post Abortion Care in India?

[ Have you recently had an abortion and finding it difficult to cope? You feel you have done something sinful, wrong and you ought ti feel ashamed of yourself? Why walk around with this heavy burden and secret when you can talk to us and find support and strength. Click on this Whatsapp chat button now: header wp icon ]


During abortion, its natural to have feelings of guilt, apprehension etc as it is a stressful process. One worries not only about their privacy & health, but also about their future. Remember you’re not alone in this & it’s okay to seek help.

As our choices make us who we are, let’s choose to be honest to ourselves, stand up for what’s best for us & our well being, by being aware of our rights & responsibilities, ensuring a better, wiser tomorrow.

[If you have any other questions or doubts about periods, pregnancy, abortion, or your sexuality, please talk to us. We will immediately help you. Talk to us by clicking on this Whatsapp chat button: header wp icon ]

About the Author:

Teertha Barnwal, a doctor, a medical intern at MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai. Enjoys writing, singing & adventuring. Meditates & believes that life is the biggest adventure.

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