How do you know if you have complications and what should you do?

If performed in the first 12 weeks, a medical abortion carries a very small risk of complications. This risk is the same as when a woman has a miscarriage and can be easily treated by a doctor or trained medical practitioner. Out of every 100 women who do a medical abortion, 2 to 3 women will seek further medical care.

Please see the list below for possible complications, symptoms, and treatment:

Heavy bleeding (occurs in less than 1% of medical abortions)

    • Symptom: Bleeding that lasts for more than 2 hours and soaks more than 2 maxi sanitary pads per hour. Feeling dizzy or light-headed can be a sign of too much blood loss. This is a serious health risk and requires medical attention.
    • Treatment: Misoprostol and/or a vacuum aspiration (curettage.) When available, a woman should start taking 2 misoprostol under the tongue immediately at home before going to the hospital. Very rarely (less than 0.2%) a blood transfusion is needed.

Incomplete abortion

    • Symptoms: heavy or persistent bleeding and/or persistent severe pain.
    • Treatment: 2 tablets of misoprostol or/ and a vacuum aspiration


    • Symptom: If you have a fever (more than 38 degrees Celsius) for more than 24 hours, or you have a fever of more than 39 degrees, there might be an infection that needs treatment.
    • Treatment: antibiotics and/or vacuum aspiration.

If you think you might have a complication you should seek medical attention immediately. If you live in a place where abortion is illegal and you don’t have a doctor who you trust, you can still access medical care. You do not have to tell the medical staff that you tried to induce an abortion; you can tell them that you had a spontaneous miscarriage. Doctors have the obligation to help in all cases and know how to handle a miscarriage.

The symptoms of a miscarriage and an abortion with pills are exactly the same and the medical practitioner will not be able to see or test for any evidence of an abortion, as long as the pills have completely dissolved. If you took the Misoprostol under the tongue, as our protocol recommends, the pills should be spit out after 30 minutes, if not dissolved completely. If you took the pills vaginally, you must check with your finger to make sure that they are dissolved. Traces of the pills may be found in the vagina up to four days after inserting them.

Less than 1% of women experience ongoing pregnancy. This can be determined by a pregnancy test after 3 weeks or an ultrasound within a week. If the medical abortion treatment failed, there is a slight increase in the risk of birth defects such as deformities of the hands or feet,and/or problems with the nerves of the fetus. To treat an ongoing pregnancy, you must repeat a medical or surgical abortion.

More information:

Research has shown that very few serious complications result from medical abortions compared to the number of women who experience successful medical abortions. In the few cases that a surgical intervention (vacuum aspiration) is needed, this can be managed by the same health care facilities that care for women who have had miscarriages.

Length of pregnancy

% of women who needed further medical care

0- 49 days (0-7 weeks)

2 %

40-63 days (7-9 weeks)


64-70 days (9-10 weeks)


71-77 days (10-11 weeks)


77-84 days (11-12 weeks)


85-91 days (12-13 weeks)



(Further medical care consists of vacuum aspiration or medication for a continuing pregnancy or an incomplete abortion.)