What is the difference between mifepristone and misoprostol?
Mifepristone blocks the activity of progesterone (a hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy) in the uterus and softens the cervix so the pregnancy comes out more easily. Misoprostol makes the uterus contract and push out the pregnancy. This is similar to what happens when a person has a miscarriage.
When both medications are available, mifepristone is taken first, and then misoprostol is taken 1–2 days later. Mifepristone is always swallowed. Misoprostol is put in the mouth to dissolve, either in between the cheek and gum or under the tongue. Note: You don’t need to take misoprostol vaginally, and no one ever needs to insert it for you.
Mifepristone is only available in a limited number of countries around the world. Mifepristone is often packaged together with misoprostol and sold as a combined product just for abortion.
Misoprostol is more widely available around the world, less expensive than mifepristone, and easier to buy from pharmacies and medicine sellers. In addition to being used to induce an abortion, misoprostol is also used to treat ulcers and to prevent or treat heavy bleeding after childbirth, therefore it is generally easier to purchase without a prescription.
Misoprostol is the medication’s clinical name, but it is sold internationally under many different trade names, such as Cytotec, Misoclear, Misotac, Kontrac, and Isovent.