With the abortion pill becoming the most common abortion method, it is important to familiarize yourself with potential side effects and risk factors associated with this regimen.

It is important to note that, if you have taken the abortion pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol, you are at risk of an incomplete abortion.

What exactly is a incomplete abortion?

An incomplete abortion is the partial loss of the embryo and/or placental remains. [1] 

Experiencing an incomplete chemical abortion does not mean you are still pregnant. It means that some of the pregnancy tissue remains inside your uterus. This is a serious condition requiring medical intervention. Likewise, an incomplete abortion may put you at risk for infection.

What are the symptoms?

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking more than two pads an hour for two hours)
  • Lower abdominal pain that can radiate through the lower back and pelvic region
  • Cramping
  • Passing blood clots and/or pieces of tissue [1,6]

When should I seek medical attention?

If you have any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

How is incomplete abortion treated?

*You should never self-treat after an attempted chemical abortion. The treatment options below are for informational purposes only. Consult your doctor if you are experiencing any complications.*

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the most common treatment for this condition is a repeat dose of misoprostol. Depending on doctor recommendations and patient request, other methods such as uterine aspiration or expectant management may be considered instead. [2] 

Let’s break these down in more detail.

  • Repeat dose of misoprostol
    • According to Guttmacher Institute, treatment of incomplete abortion using a repeated dose of misoprostol is 99% effective at emptying the uterus if the pregnancy is 12 or fewer weeks. [3]
  • Uterine aspiration
    • Uterine aspiration (also called suction or vacuum aspiration) is a medical procedure in which the cervix is dilated (opened) and a suction device is used to empty the uterus. [4]
  • Expectant management
    • This involves waiting and allowing the uterus to empty its contents spontaneously. This method is not typically recommended due to low efficacy (lower success rates) and the timeline for such events to occur is unpredictable. [5]  

How common is this condition?

According to research reported by Charlotte Lozier Institute, surgery is required 3.4-7.9% of the time following an attempted chemical abortion. Therefore, it is important that you monitor your symptoms and watch for signs of incomplete abortion.

If you’ve taken the abortion pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol and are experiencing troublesome symptoms, go to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Incomplete abortion is a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

At ThriVe Express Savannah we offer post-abortion support. If you have had an abortion recently and want to talk through any concerns or need help processing your grief, schedule an appointment to come see us. Our trained staff will offer you information, resources, and support. You are not alone.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559071/

[2] https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2020/10/medication-abortion-up-to-70-days-of-gestation

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/ipsrh/2014/12/use-misoprostol-treat-incomplete-abortion-should-be-limited-first-12-weeks

[4] https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/induced-abortion  

[5] clinguide_pacguide_en.pdf (gynuity.org)

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/incomplete-abortion