My roommate just had an abortion using RU-486. She was sure that she wanted an abortion, but she was still apprehensive about using RU-486, since specific information about the process was not widely available. After going through with it anyway, she thought it would be useful for us to write a personal account for others considering or interested in RU-486.

She went to Planned Parenthood of NYC for the abortion, and they recommend a protocol that is different from the FDA prescribed method. Planned Parenthood will provide an RU-486 abortion up to 7 weeks after your last period. (In general, pregnancy is measured from the date of your last period, not from the date of conception.)

First, she was given a blood test to ensure that she was pregnant and not anemic. Then, an ultrasound was used to measure the exact date of conception, which was four and a half weeks prior.

Afterwards, she spoke to a counselor who asked about her reasons for having an abortion and her home situation, to determine if she needed additional support services and to ensure that having an abortion at home was a safe option.

Next, a doctor gave her a routine gynecological exam and pap smear and answered questions. She swallowed 200mg of mifepristone in front of the doctor. The appointment, including tests, counseling, and the doctor's exam, took a total of two and a half hours, most of which was waiting.

She started bleeding the next day. The cramps were a litle stronger than they would be during a normal period, but she was still able to walk around and go to a movie.

Mifepristone blocks progesterone, which is needed to maintain the uterine lining and pregnancy. When you take mifepristone, the lining starts to break down, which is why you can begin bleeding. A second drug, misoprostol, is needed to induce cramping and the actual abortion. On the third day, she inserted four misoprostol tablets into her vagina at home (in some cases, this step is performed at the clinic or doctor's office). She was given the doctor's pager number in case of problems. After inserting the tablets, she had to lie down for one hour.

Cramps started about two hours after inserting the pills, and bleeding began about an hour after that. She took lots of ibuprofen -- 800mg every four hours. The cramps and bleeding were slightly worse than a normal period, but not as bad as she had expected. The cramps lasted until she went to bed, but they were mostly gone the next day. She had to stay home the whole day.

She will have to return for a follow up appointment in two weeks, and is not allowed to have vaginal intercourse or use tampons until then.

Overall, she would not recommend it as birth control (at $375 it is approximately 1000 times as expensive as a condom) but would recommend it as a less-invasive alternative to surgical abortion.

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