How to prepare for a medical abortion in Kenya

There are many steps you can take to prepare for your abortion. Once you have decided to have an abortion, one step may be deciding whether to have a surgical or medical abortion. Studies have found that individuals can strongly prefer one method of abortion over another but mostly it is a matter of preference. While a surgical abortion and the clinic setting may be preferable to some, others may wish to have a medical abortion, where they can be more comfortable experiencing part of the procedure in their own home for privacy and comfort.

Medical abortion consists of two pills: mifepristone, which stops the pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone; and misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy tissue. For individuals seeking a medical abortion at a clinic, they are often given mifepristone at the clinic, and then given misoprostol to take at home. This allows individuals to be in the privacy of their own home, as the misoprostol works with the supervision of a doctor.

If you are thinking about a medical abortion, the first thing to do is to confirm you are pregnant. You can do this with a urine pregnancy test which you can buy at a pharmacy. Alternatively, you can go to a health facility and get a blood test for the pregnancy hormone, or an ultrasound. Although an ultrasound is not necessary before an early abortion, it can confirm the length of the pregnancy and confirm the pregnancy is inside the uterus.

Once you know you are pregnant, you will need to confirm the length of the pregnancy to make sure a medical abortion is the right option. The WHO has published evidence that misoprostol alone, or with mifepristone, has been found to be effective through 12 weeks of pregnancy, however most health facilities administer medical abortion up to nine weeks.  As mentioned above, an ultrasound can help confirm the length of the pregnancy. Alternatively, an individual can count the number of days that have passed since the first day of their last period. A nurse or physician at a health facility can also do a physical exam to assess the length of a pregnancy.

Finally, it is important to make a plan for when to take the medicines and to make sure an individual can access a medical facility if necessary. Although medical abortion involves very low risks, it is better for an individual to have a friend, family member or partner available to provide emotional support, and help in case there are signs of complications.

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