Cytotec (Misoprostol) for Abortion: A Comprehensive Guide

Cytotec (generic name misoprostol) is a medication that was originally approved to prevent stomach ulcers. However, one of its off-label uses is to induce abortions by causing contractions of the uterus. This leads to the expulsion of pregnancy tissue, terminating the pregnancy.

What is Cytotec (Misoprostol) and How Does it Work?

Misoprostol is a synthetic prostaglandin E1 analog medication that was first approved by the FDA in 1988 under the brand name Cytotec. While its on-label use is for preventing stomach ulcers, it was discovered that it also has uterine contracting effects.

Misoprostol can be used for medical abortion procedures in the first trimester due to its ability to induce strong uterine contractions. This causes the cervical canal to dilate and leads to detachment of the pregnancy and emptying of the uterus.

Specifically, Cytotec misoprostol works by:

  • Softening and dilating the cervix
  • Inducing uterine contractions
  • Detaching the pregnancy by interfering with progesterone activity

This combination of effects allows the pregnancy to be expelled. The timing and dosage can be optimized to increase efficacy and reduce side effects.

When is Cytotec Used for Pregnancy Termination?

While Cytotec is not approved by the FDA for use as an abortifacient, it has become widely used off-label to terminate pregnancies in a medical setting rather than surgically.

It is generally only prescribed for abortion in the first and early second trimester, up to 9 weeks gestation. The exact recommended timing depends on the administering physician and can vary by region.

Some key guidelines include:

  • Up to 7 weeks: Cytotec along with mifepristone is 95-98% effective in this early window. It is considered the simplest and safest time for a medical abortion.
  • 8-9 weeks: Success rates remain high in this range but drop off quickly after. Cytotec may be used alone or with mifepristone.
  • After 9-10 weeks: The chances of failed termination rise significantly, so a surgical abortion is typically recommended instead past this timeline. Pieces of remaining tissue can cause infection.

So in summary, Cytotec is most often prescribed for inducing medical abortion from early pregnancy until about 9 weeks gestation, after which surgical options are preferred.

The timing of doses and evaluations can be coordinated by the administering doctor based on the patient’s specific menstrual dates and health profile. Mifepristone may be combined early on to improve efficacy.

Cytotec for EMA
Cytotec for EMA