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Are abortion pills safe to use at home?

Medical abortion, also known as abortion with pills, is increasingly becoming the more popular method of abortion. In the UK, medical abortions accounted for around 73% of all abortions performed in 2019. This increased to 82% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has also forced countries and medical authorities to assess the safety of using abortion pills at home, and to see whether women could self-manage their own abortions at home and avoid travelling to abortion clinics.

The World Health Organisation updated its guidance on abortion in 2020 to say that in the first trimester (first 12 weeks of pregnancy) abortion pills are safe to use at home without direct supervision of a healthcare provider. The WHO stated that women should be given information on how to use the abortion pills, and should have medical facilities available (such as a hospital A&E) in case of complications.

Prior to 2020 it was common practice for women to take the first abortion pill (Mifepristone) in an abortion clinic and then take Misoprostol the next day at home. Since the pandemic started, countries such as the UK updated their rules so that women are allowed to take all abortion pills at home.

Women on Web, a charity that provides abortion pills to women around the world, advises the following when using abortion pills at home: "You are strongly advised to use the medicines in the presence of someone you trust. However, if you choose to do the medical abortion alone, it is not necessarily hazardous. Make sure you are near a phone or some way of contacting medical professionals. You should consider telling someone (a neighbor, a family member, or someone who is nearby) that you are not feeling well and you are going to rest. You can ask them to check on you later in the day after you use the Misoprostol. This way someone will know if you are experiencing complications and can help you, but they do not have to know that you have done a medical abortion. You can say that you think you have had a miscarriage."

So in summary, yes, it is safe for women to use abortion pills at home, provided they are less than 12 weeks pregnant, are given information on how to use the tablets, are not too far from a hospital A&E in case of complications, and ideally are with someone they trust.

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