What is the Difference Between Misoprostol and Mifepristone

Written by William Henderson  »  Updated on: May 08th, 2024

What is the Difference Between Misoprostol and Mifepristone

Medication abortion is a safe and non-invasive method of terminating an early pregnancy. This process typically involves the use of two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. They are commonly used in medical abortion. While they work together in the abortion process, they have distinct functions.

This article delves into the key differences and functions of mifepristone and misoprostol. It also explores their functions, effectiveness, side effects, and considerations.

What is Medication Abortion?

Medical abortion is also known as medication abortion or the abortion pill. It is a non-invasive procedure to terminate a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks of the last menstrual period. It contains two medications: misoprostol and mifepristone kit. Mifepristone is given first under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is followed by misoprostol 24-48 hours later.

Compared to surgical abortion, medication abortion offers several advantages, including:

Privacy and convenience: It can be completed at home or in a healthcare clinic setting.

Non-invasive nature: It avoids surgical procedures and associated risks.

Effectiveness: Medical abortion is highly effective when used correctly. It is over 98% successful in terminating early pregnancy.

Control: Women can experience the process privately and manage symptoms at home.

The success of medical abortion relies on the combined action of mifepristone and misoprostol. Trusted online pharmacies offer MTP kits that contain both medications. These are effective in terminating an early pregnancy up to 10 weeks.

What are Misoprostol and Mifepristone?

Misoprostol and mifepristone are two different medications. They are used in the process of medical abortion. It is also known as the "abortion pill". Both these drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have a safety record of over 99%.


Mifepristone is the first of the two medicines administered during a medical abortion. It blocks the female hormone progesterone. Progesterone is needed to support a pregnancy. Without it, the lining of the uterus breaks down. Thus, the pregnancy cannot continue. Mifepristone is taken by mouth. It is usually followed by misoprostol 24-48 hours later.


Misoprostol is the second drug used in a medical abortion. It induces intense uterine contractions. This leads to the expulsion of the pregnancy tissue. The contractions are similar to a heavy, crampy period. The process resembles an early miscarriage. Misoprostol is also used in some countries where mifepristone is not available. It serves as the only option for medical abortion.

Can Misoprostol Alone be Used for Abortion?

Misoprostol alone can be used to end an early pregnancy. However, it's not as effective as the mifepristone and misoprostol combination. There have been studies on the effectiveness of misoprostol alone for abortion. They typically range from 84% to 98% success rate. A study that found misoprostol alone for the treatment of abortion in the U.S. was 88% effective.

Comparing Effectiveness: Mifepristone vs Misoprostol

While both medications play a role in medication abortion, their effectiveness differs. Studies have shown:

Mifepristone alone:

Mifepristone has a success rate of around 60-70% for early pregnancy termination.

Misoprostol alone:

The success rate of misoprostol used independently is lower, at approximately 70-80%.

Combined regimen:

The most effective approach utilizes both mifepristone and misoprostol sequentially. This combination has a success rate exceeding 98%. This makes it a highly reliable method for early pregnancy termination.

The combined regimen works synergistically. Mifepristone prepares the uterus, while misoprostol facilitates the expulsion of pregnancy tissue. It leads to a complete and efficient termination process.

Side Effects

Both mifepristone and misoprostol are considered safe for use in medical abortions. However, they can cause side effects.

Here are the common side effects linked with each medication:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Mild cramping


  • Cramping and abdominal pain (more intense than with mifepristone)
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding, possibly with clots
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Fever (usually low-grade)

These are common side effects. However, not everyone experiences all of them. The severity can also vary. Healthcare providers can advise on pain management strategies. These can include over-the-counter pain relievers and heating pads to help manage discomfort.

Safety Considerations and Follow-Up Care

Medical abortion conducted by a doctor is a safe and effective option for early pregnancy termination. However, some important considerations exist:

Medical assessment

A healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination. They will usually do an ultrasound scan to confirm pregnancy viability and location.


Medical abortion is recommended for pregnancies up to 10 weeks from the last menstrual period. Underlying medical conditions may affect eligibility. A healthcare provider will assess suitability on a case-by-case basis.

Follow-up care

A follow-up appointment is important to ensure a complete abortion. It could also address any potential complications, like incomplete evacuation or infection.

The Bottom Line

Consult a healthcare professional or a licensed abortion clinic before getting an abortion. They can provide accurate information, address your specific concerns, and guide you through the process.

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