Drugs Q & A

Can You Drink While Taking Abortion Pills?

According to the CDC, nearly half of adult women report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Approximately 13% of adult women report binge drinking and on average do so 4 times a month, consuming 5 drinks per binge. About 18% of women of child-bearing age (i.e., ages 18–44 years) binge drink.

Mixing medication and alcohol comes with serious risks – and it’s extremely important to understand the dangers. Findings from studies suggest a significant percentage of people do know about the risks of mixing medication with alcohol, but their perceptions of danger somewhat differ from what doctors and pharmacists say.

Results from research also indicate that alcohol is a significant part of many people’s social lives, and the perceived dangers of drinking with medication are perhaps not enough to stop this behavior. Understanding how best to address American health and safety, especially in a nation where over half the population consumes prescription drugs is important. We can help ourselves, our friends, and our community by understanding the dangers and taking steps to prevent harm.

What is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill is in fact two medicines. The first medicine ends the pregnancy and is named mifepristone. It works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue. The second medicine, misoprostol makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding, and the loss of the pregnancy similar to a miscarriage.

This method can be used up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. What to expect depends on whether the pregnancy is less than or more than 10 weeks gestation. You can obtain these medications through doctors and clinics that provide abortion services, like Planned Parenthood. You should never buy them online or on the black market. The cost of the medication depends on location and additional tests or follow-ups that may be necessary. According to Planned Parenthood, abortion procedures can cost up to $800. However, this cost fluctuates depending on the area where you live.

How will I feel after taking the abortion pill?

For most people, medication abortion feels like having an early miscarriage. You might have:

•          lots of cramping and aches in your belly

•          very heavy bleeding with large clots (If you don’t have any bleeding within 24 hours after taking the second medicine, misoprostol, call your nurse or doctor.)

•          an upset stomach and vomiting (Your doctor or nurse may give you medicine to help with nausea.)

•          diarrhea

•          dizziness

•          tiredness

•          mild fever (99-100° F) or chills on the day you take the misoprostol (If you have a fever after the day you take the misoprostol pills, call your doctor or health center right away.)

To help ease pain and make you more comfortable, you can:

•          Take pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Don’t take aspirin because it can make your bleeding worse.

•          Put a heating pad or hot water bottle on your belly.

•          Take a shower.

•          Sit on the toilet.

•          Have someone rub your back.

Can you drink while taking abortion pills?

No, drinking alcohol while taking an abortion pill can cause it to fail. When misoprostol and mifepristone are used together, they have about a 98 percent effectiveness rate. While this effectiveness rate is high, it’s possible for a medical abortion to fail to terminate a pregnancy, especially when taken with substances like alcohol.

Alcohol exposure on its own increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, even at low levels of consumption during the first trimester. Alcohol use in weeks 5 through 10 of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of spontaneous abortion as a result, combining alcohol with the abortion pill not only affects the way the medication works but also increases the risk of side effects.

You should avoid alcoholic drinks for at least 48 hours after taking the pill so as to ensure it works effectively. In addition, you should not drink alcohol if you are taking antibiotics. Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while using the abortion pill unless your health care professional says you may do so safely.

What are the side effects of the abortion pill?

Potential risks of medical abortion include:

  • Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
  • An ongoing unwanted pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Digestive system discomfort.

You must be certain about your decision before beginning a medical abortion. If you decide to continue the pregnancy after taking medications used in medical abortion, your pregnancy may be at risk of major complications.

Medical abortion hasn’t been shown to affect future pregnancies unless complications develop.

Medical abortion isn’t an option if you:

  • Are too far along in your pregnancy. You shouldn’t attempt a medical abortion if you’ve been pregnant for more than nine weeks (after the start of your last period). Some types of medical abortion aren’t done after seven weeks of pregnancy.
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Have a suspected pregnancy outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy).
  • Have certain medical conditions. These include bleeding disorders; certain heart or blood vessel diseases; severe liver, kidney or lung disease; or an uncontrolled seizure disorder.
  • Take a blood thinner or certain steroid medications.
  • Can’t make follow-up visits to your doctor or don’t have access to emergency care.
  • Have an allergy to the medications used.

A surgical procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C) may be an option for women who can’t have a medical abortion.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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