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The abortion pill process

Abortion  •  12 April 2024  • 9 min read

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A medical abortion (or ‘abortion with pills’, as it is sometimes called) involves taking two types medication to end a pregnancy. At MSI UK, abortion pills are offered up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. We offer both face-to-face medical abortion appointments and at-home abortion pills (or ‘abortion telemedicine’). This means that eligible clients will be able to take the abortion pills at home, without attending a clinic. In this blog, you will find information about how a medical abortion works, and the abortion pill process.

How does a medical abortion or ‘abortion pills’ work?

A medical abortion is sometimes called an ‘abortion with pills’ or ‘abortion pills’. It involves taking two types of medication at two different times to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first type of medication – mifepristone – blocks the hormone that is needed for the pregnancy to grow. The second type of medication – misoprostol – causes the body to expel the pregnancy from the womb. A medical abortion is the safest treatment option up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy for most people.

The abortion pill process

At MSI UK, we offer abortion pills up to 9 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. We offer face-to-face medical abortion services, as well as at-home abortion services (also known as ‘abortion telemedicine’).

If you meet safety criteria to allow for medical abortion without a scan, the abortion medication can either be collected by you from one of our clinics or posted to you after your phone or face-to-face consultation.

What does the abortion pill process look like?

1) Calculate your gestation: The first step in accessing medical abortion care or ‘abortion pills’ is to calculate your gestation (how many weeks pregnant you are) to determine whether this treatment option is available to you. We also offer surgical abortion care, up to 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. You can use our gestation calculator to find out how many weeks pregnant you are.

2) Consider your treatment options: Next, you should consider what the best treatment option is for you. Most people having an abortion can choose how it will be carried out, but your choice will depend on individual circumstances and how you feel about the different options. You can use our abortion comparison table to see the differences between medical and surgical abortion.

3) Book your consultation: Once you have decided that a medical abortion is the right option for you, the next step is to book your initial consultation. When you get in touch with us, an advisor will arrange a consultation that either takes place over the phone or face-to-face at one of our clinics, at a time that suits you.

4) Your consultation appointment: During your consultation appointment, we will collect your medical history and explain the next steps in the process. In order to fulfil legal requirements, we will ask what your reasons are for wanting an abortion. You can also discuss contraception at this stage, should you wish to start a method following your abortion treatment (contraception is always offered as part of NHS-funded abortion care).

At the end of your consultation, you will be offered an appointment at one of our clinics (if it is determined that you need a scan) or, if you are eligible for at-home abortion pills, you will be booked for a phone assessment with one of our nurses.

5) Face-to-face appointment: During a face-to-face appointment, you may have a scan so we can determine your gestation. You will pick up the abortion pills and our nurses will give you clear, detailed instructions on how to take them. You will also be given our Medical Abortion Treatment and Aftercare booklet which includes these details on how to take the pills, the pain relief you may find useful, and aftercare advice.

You may be asked to take the first pill (mifepristone) at the clinic. If this applies to you, this will be explained during your appointment.

At-home medical abortion (telemedicine): If you are eligible and choose this option, you will have a phone assessment with one of our nurses. During this call, it will be decided whether you will collect the abortion pills from one of our clinics, or have them sent to you in the post.

If the pills are sent to you in the post, they will be delivered in a discreet package that fits in your letterbox and sent first class.

6) Consenting to your treatment: You will be given a treatment consent form ahead of your appointment, so you have time to understand the treatment and write down any questions you might have. Before starting your treatment, our nurses and midwives will discuss the consent form in detail with you, explaining side effects and risks involved just like any other medical procedure, to make sure you feel ready and prepared. You will either consent to your treatment during your face-to-face appointment at a clinic, or during your phone assessment with one of our nurses.

7) Taking the abortion pills: Whether you’ve visited a clinic for a scan, picked up your pills at the clinic or received the pills in the post, you will be given detailed instructions on how to take the pills.

  • Step 1: taking the first tablet (mifepristone): Once you receive the pack, take your first tablet (1 mifepristone tablet). Remove only the mifepristone from the blister pack (or from your plastic bag labelled “1” if you receive the package by post) and swallow it with plenty of water. Most people can continue their daily routine as normal after taking mifepristone. Occasionally you may experience some bleeding and pain. If you vomit within 30 minutes of swallowing the tablet, call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441.
  • Step 2: taking the second set of tablets (4 mifepristone tablets) 24-48 hours after completing step 1: 24-48 hours after completing step 1, remove the 4 tablets of misoprostol from the blister pack (or from your plastic bag labelled “2” if you receive the package by post). Place all 4 tablets either vaginally (which we recommend as there are fewer side-effects), or if you prefer in your mouth between your gum and cheek.

The tablets work best if you leave 24-48 hours between the first and second steps, but you can take them up to 72 hours after (please note that if more than 72 hours pass and you have not taken the misoprostol tablets you may need to come back to the clinic to repeat the treatment).

You can take your chosen method of pain killers 10 minutes before you plan to take the misoprostol.

The tablets might come out of the vagina when you start to bleed. If the tablets come out at this point, don’t worry as the medication will have been absorbed within 30 minutes.

Please remember that if you are 9 weeks and 6 days gestation on the day of taking the first tablet (mifepristone) you must take this second set of tablets (misoprostol) no more than 24 hours later.

  • Step 3: Taking the 2 extra tablets (misoprostol) 3 hours after completing step 2: If you are sure that you have already passed the pregnancy after completing step 2, you do not need to follow step 3. If you are not sure (which will be most people), please take the remaining 2 tablets of misoprostol 3 hours after completing step 2. You will need to place these 2 misoprostol tablets in the vagina or between your cheek and gums.

If you have very little or no bleeding by 48 hours after taking the second pills (misoprostol), it is possible the medical abortion has not worked so please call our 24-hour aftercare line on 0345 122 1441.

Read our Medical Abortion Treatment and Aftercare Booklet for more detailed guidance on taking abortion pills.

8) Taking the pregnancy test after the abortion: It is important that you take the pregnancy test included in your medical abortion pack three weeks after you have completed Step 3. Please use the pregnancy test we have provided, as it is different to a shop-bought test. Read our blog on how to take a pregnancy test after an abortion for detailed instructions on this step of the process.

9) Accessing contraception: Contraception counselling is part of your abortion care with MSI UK, should you wish to start (or change) a method of contraception following your abortion. Some methods can be given or fitted during your appointment, or we can offer you a follow up appointment for whatever method of contraception you may choose. You can book an appointment within six months of your abortion treatment.

10) Access aftercare support: We are here to support you after your abortion. You can talk to a nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on our aftercare line: 0345 122 1441. Read more about medical abortion aftercare.

Useful links

To read more about the abortion pill process, click on the links below:

You can always contact us should you have any questions about our services, would like to book an appointment or you have had treatment with us and want aftercare support. 


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