RU486 - The "abortion pill"

Generic name: Mifepristone, RU486

Brand name: Mifegyne, Mifiprex

What is RU486?

Mifepristone (RU486) is an antiprogestogen that is used for the non-surgical termination of pregnancy of up to 24 weeks gestation.

RU486 is often referred to as "the abortion pill".

For the termination of pregnancy, a single dose of oral mifepristone is followed by vaginal administration of the prostaglandin gemeprost.

Together, mifepristone & gemeprost are 95-97% effective at inducing termination of pregnancy.

How RU486 works

Mifepristone is typically given with gemeprost (a prostaglandin). Mifepristone sensitises the myometrium (the muscular wall of the uterus) to prostaglandin-induced contractions and it softens and dilates the cervix. Gemeprost stimulates the uterus to contract which leads to the foetus being expelled from the womb.

Is RU486 safe?

In the past decade, over 1 million women worldwide have safely used RU486 to end their pregnancies. RU486 has been tested for both safety and effectiveness and is approved for use in more than 29 countries, including the USA and most of Europe.

Mifepristone has a number of side-effects & must be used with caution in asthmatics (it may trigger an asthma attack) and in patients with blood disorders or taking anticoagulant medication.

Smokers aged over 35 years are at increased risk of cardiovascular (heart & circulation) problems.

Aspirin and NSAIDs should be avoided as they can increase bleeding.


- uncontrolled severe asthma
- suspected ectopic pregnancy
- chronic adrenal failure
- porphyria

Side effects:

- nausea & vomiting
- abdominal cramps
- vaginal bleeding (may be severe)

Medical termination is not always successful. If treatment fails, the manufacturer states that it is essential that pregnancy be terminated by another method (ie. surgical termination of pregnancy).

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