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Medical abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy through ingestion of medication rather than via surgical procedure.
In the course of a medical abortion, the patient is given one pill in the presence of a doctor. This pill will block the hormone progesterone that causes the lining of the uterus to break down and the pregnancy to end. The patient is also given antibiotics.
Within 24-48 hours after the first pill is ingested, a second pill called misoprostol is taken. This pill causes the uterus to empty resulting in cramps and heavy bleeding.
Patients must have a follow up visit with their doctor within two weeks to confirm that the pregnancy has ended.
Medical abortion is suggested in early pregnancy and is considered more effective that surgical abortion during the first 49 days of gestation. It may be recommended if the mother is extrememely obese or has uterine tumors or fibroids.
It should be noted that medical abortion is completely different than emergency contraception or the "morning after pill. Medical bortion ends a pregnancy while emergency contraception prevents one from occurring.