What will happen if you do an abortion with pills after the first 12 weeks?

Medical abortion has been proven to be effective and safe up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

If you have been pregnant for longer than 12 weeks and do a medical abortion, the medicines will still work and cause an abortion. However, the risk of complications increases and it is more likely that you will need to receive treatment from a medical professional afterwards (see the table below on complications to determine the exact amount of increased risk). Therefore, it is strongly advised that if you are taking the pills after 12 weeks, make sure you situate yourself close to a healthcare facility, such as in the waiting room of a hospital or in a nearby place very close to a hospital.

Medical abortion feels like having a miscarriage and there are no physically significant differences between having a medical abortion and spontaneous miscarriage. The symptoms and treatment are the same. If you live in a country where abortion is illegal and you need emergency care in a hospital, it is important to tell the doctors that you had a miscarriage because in some countries individuals can be prosecuted for having an abortion. Please be aware that you will lose a lot of tissue and blood, but also a fetus (the size depends on the duration of the pregnancy), which can be recognized as such; this can be quite distressing to see.

Medical abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy is always a safer option than resorting to unsafe methods to induce an abortion, such as inserting sharp objects into the vagina, ingesting toxic chemicals such as bleach or causing trauma by punching the abdomen. You should never use these dangerous methods!

More information:

The longer the pregnancy is, the higher the risk of complications a medical abortion entails. According to the study by Hamoda et al. “Medical abortion at 64 to 91 days of gestation: a review of 483 consecutive cases” published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the percentage of people who needed further medical care as per the length of pregnancy is as follows:


Length of pregnancy

%  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)


The medical care for complications consists of medication, emergency curettage, and vacuum aspiration for a continuing pregnancy or an incomplete abortion.

For pregnancies from 64 to 93 days (9 to 13 weeks), 0,4 % of the women might need emergency curettage for bleeding.

Even for pregnancies longer than 13 weeks, only 8,1 % of the women need a surgical intervention because of continuing pregnancy or incomplete abortion.

If there is no access to legal safe abortion services or to an abortion help service like Women on Web, it is likely that individuals will turn to a variety of dangerous methods to induce abortion. These methods are always more dangerous than medical abortion!