Consumer Health Info: Medication Abortion and Miscarriage
Why Discuss Miscarriage or Abortion?
In the United States, pregnant people are often discouraged from revealing their pregnancies in the first trimester. Many people feel like they can only discuss their miscarriages or abortions with their closest friends or family members, creating a veil of secrecy and shame around a very normal part of human reproduction.
Fake women’s health clinics (sometimes referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers”) have been known to capitalize on this lack of knowledge, significantly exaggerating the likelihood of miscarriage in an effort to dissuade people from seeking desired abortions or lying about the health effects of abortion.
This fact sheet seeks to demystify and destigmatize what happens when an early pregnancy ends to help pregnant people know what to expect, when they can safely manage the process at home, and when they need to seek help.
Why Talk About Miscarriage and Medication Abortion Together?
- A miscarriage occurs when an early pregnancy (before 20 weeks) ends on its own. As many as 1 out of 5 known pregnancies ends in a naturally occurring miscarriage, most caused by chromosomal abnormalities that happen by chance during early embryonic development. Miscarriage is almost never directly related to the actions of the pregnant person.
- A medication abortion is a miscarriage induced by FDA-approved abortion pills. Medication abortion simply initiates the body’s same natural process for when an early pregnancy ends. Some pregnant people may choose a medication abortion with the help of a licensed medical provider, often following an exam to determine how far along their pregnancies are. Others may choose to self-induce a medication abortion using FDA-approved pills that they acquire and take on their own. The NWHN strongly supports the right of individuals to make these choices for themselves.
From a medical perspective, there is no physically significant difference between a medication abortion and a spontaneously occurring miscarriage. For example, the medicines used in medication abortion are used to help safely manage an incomplete miscarriage.
The end of an early pregnancy can be taxing physically and sometimes mentally. Physical recovery can range from a few days to a few weeks. Emotional recovery can take longer. Whatever the experience, take measures to make the process as comfortable as possible.
Additionally, it’s important to note that symptoms will vary person-to-person; some early miscarriages may seem like an unusually heavy menstrual period. Symptoms depend on a range of factors, including how far along the pregnancy is. Each body is unique and no experience is exactly the same. If something feels wrong, contact a health professional right away.