The problem with abortion pills in some countries is that they can be illegal substances. Sadly, when substances are illegal, the public may not be adequately informed about the substance in question. Take for example misoprostol (more commonly known as Cytotec). Misoprostol is a substance to prevent ulcer formation for patients taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, off-label, it has been used as a very effective abortifacient. Even though it is even on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the mere fact that it is being used as an abortifacient caused it to be banned in certain countries. To correct this, this article aims to provide a general overview of abortifacients and abortion pill side effects.
- As stated before, misoprostol was originally used as an anti-ulcer drug for those who were taking drugs that could induce ulcers. In any case, one of the reasons that it was banned as an abortifacient was that omeprazole was found to be at least as effective as misoprostol in its non-abortifacient effects. It can induce labor and is much cheaper than the other drug used for this, dinoprostone. Since misoprostol can induce labor at any point, it can lead to a miscarriage if the child cannot survive outside of the womb yet. It is very important that one knows that misoprostol is an abortifacient and should not be used on pregnant women.
- Indications as an abortifacient. Misoprostol must be used early on in the pregnancy. If the fetus is allowed to develop too much, the uterus will contract, but since the fetus is too large, physical damage may occur. The uterine walls may even rupture.
- Side effects: For those taking misoprostol as an anti-ulcer drug, misoprostol is of course classified as an abortifacient and as such should not be taken by pregnant women who wish to carry to term. Misoprostol intake has also been associated with fever. Besides this, the use of misoprostol in abortion and failure to abort has resulted in birth defects. As an abortifacient, if misoprostol is taken too late into the pregnancy the fetus may not abort properly. Diarrhea is a possible side effect of taking misoprostol. Other side effects include headache, nausea, flatulence, headache, vomiting, dyspepsia, and constipation, but these occurred not significantly more than when one took placebos.
- Contraindication: No abortifacient should be used if one suspects an ectopic pregnancy.
- Besides being an abortifacient, mifepristone is used for the treatment of Cushing’s disease. Again, it is very important that the one who uses this drug be aware of its abortifacient capability. However, its main use is indeed as an abortifacient, and is often used with gemeprost to induce abortion up to 24 weeks of gestation. It can be used alone as an abortifacient for up to 49 days of gestation.
- Side effects: Women who take this drug can experience abdominal pain, uterine cramps, and vaginal bleeding. Pelvic inflammatory disease rarely happens, but is serious enough to be of note.
- Contraindications: Mifepristone should not be taken if one is using an IUD, nor if one has adrenal failure, hemorrhagic disorders, inherited porphyria, or on long-term anticoagulant or corticosteroid therapy. No aboortifacient should be used if one suspects an ectopic pregnancy.
For the most part, since abortion pills were originally created to solve other diseases, one could consider their abortifacient properties to be the side effect itself. However, for the purposes of discussing abortion pill side effects, it would be okay remember that their main mechanism of action is to stimulate the uterus to contract and push out the fetus. If there is any impediment to the fetus getting pushed out, abortion pills should not be taken.