Top Facts You Need to Know About Medical Abortion

A medical abortion is one way to end an early pregnancy using prescription medication. Complications are
very rare, and this method is considered safe and effective for most people up to 70 days of pregnancy, or about 9 to 10 weeks since their last period.

In 2020,
more than half of the abortions in the United States were medical abortions. Six out of 10 abortions in the United States take place in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, and medical abortion is the most common method for ending a pregnancy in that time frame.

illustration of a person taking pills

  1. Medical abortion, medication abortion and the abortion pill all mean the same thing — taking medication instead of getting a surgical procedure to end a pregnancy.
  2. The method involves taking two types of medication — mifepristone and misoprostol — in combination, either at home or in a healthcare facility.
  3. These medications must be prescribed by a certified healthcare provider. You can get them from some healthcare providers and clinics (either in-person or via telehealth) or through mail-order or online pharmacies. Be sure to research online pharmacies first to be sure they are safe sources for medication. We’ve included a resource below.
  4. Medical abortion is effective 99.6% of the time. In the few occasions when it does fail, surgery or additional follow-up care may be needed.
  5. Complications are rare, but can happen. These include:
    • Leftover tissue from your pregnancy in your uterus
    • Blood clots in your uterus
    • Very heavy bleeding
    • Infection
    • An allergic reaction
  6. If any of these occur, you will need to reach out to your healthcare provider for additional treatment.

  7. You can be in a comfortable place, such as your home, when you take your pills. The pills will cause bleeding and cramping. Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other side effects. Plan to take 1 to 2 days of rest after a medical abortion.

illustration of a person talking to a pharmacist

While medical abortion is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion, it’s not right for everyone. It’s important to discuss the method, including whether you’re a good candidate, with a healthcare provider, either in person or through an online telehealth provider. For more information about access to medical abortion, check out Plan C.

I Thought I Knew About the Dangers of Summer Heat

I knew better. Living in Arizona for 17 years, I’d gotten used to the blazing temperatures of summer. Days, and yes, nights, over 100 degrees for weeks on end are typical, and really not much of an issue unless your A/C goes out. Even on those handful of days that are over 110, I only feel the heat during brief dashes between my car and the store or the office. So I am used to the heat.

Every summer, our local news stresses the same routine safety precautions: Exercise early in the morning, drink plenty of water, wear a hat, etc. And there are always dozens of tragic stories of people dying on our hiking trails because of the extreme heat, or needing rescuing just in the nick of time. But it’s always someone else — a tourist, an older person. Certainly not someone who is used to the heat. Certainly not me.

That Sunday in June, after an intensive morning of work, I was ready to get off the computer and get outside for a while. That weekend was the first excessive heat warning of the summer, so I knew it would be scorching. But I didn’t intend to be out long, and I could handle it — or so I thought. I can still hear my husband Chris’s voice: “You’re going out now, at noon? At least wear a hat and bring some water.” “ll be fine,” I thought as I jumped in my car, headed for the hiking trail.

When I arrived, there was only one other car in the parking lot. That meant only one other person on Earth was as crazy as me to be out there in the blazing heat. I should’ve turned back then. Mistake #1. Not wanting the hassle of having to carry a water bottle the whole way, I left it in the car. Mistake #2.

Phone in hand, listening to my favorite YouTube vloggers, I started on the trail, on a hike I’d done a million times before. My feet crunched along the loose, rocky path incline. I was surrounded by incredible views and nature of the southwest desert. About 30 minutes in, I started up the first leg of the peak on a part of the trail that we’ve dubbed “Lombard” in homage to San Francisco’s famous zig-zaggy street. Lombard is steep and can really kick your butt, so I made sure not to push it. Even then, I didn’t feel thirsty and wasn’t sweating much, so it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be fine.

As I neared the last leg up to the peak, I decided to rest on a rock to catch my breath before the final push. It was windy there, and the breeze, while hot, felt good on my skin. But things changed suddenly. I started getting that tingly, lightheaded feeling you get before you faint. It came on quick. I knew that if I passed out up there in that heat, I might not be found for hours — or at least a day. “I cannot faint up here. I gotta hold it together,” I told myself. Barely able to see my phone screen due to the white-hot brightness of the sky, I reached Chris and told him to come meet me because I was dizzy. I was now fully aware of the truly dangerous situation I was in — that I had put myself in. Alone on a steep mountain trail with no water, nearly 110 degrees, with no one else around, and a 30-minute hike down to the car. This is how people die on summer hikes. These are the stories I hear on the news.

2022 (Photo/Chris Kawashima)
2022 (Photo/Chris Kawashima)

I tried to make my way down the trail. My fuzzy thinking reasoned that if my body was moving, I’d have less chance of fainting. I was wrong. With each shaky step, my vision got blurrier, and then a surreal black and white, and then pure blindness. Why I didn’t just stop, I don’t know. But the next thing I recall was my body and face slamming on the ground. I’d most likely fainted and the fall jolted me awake. As I started to pull myself up, I saw blood streaming onto the rocks below me. I’d landed directly on some jagged rocks, which tore a gash on the bridge of my nose.

Right at that moment, while still on the ground, I heard a voice on the trail ask if I was OK. It was unbelievable. Still barely able to see, I scrambled to sit up while my mind was still in a woozy haze from the heat and fainting. Brian, as I learned later, was rounding the turn when he heard me fall. He gave me an old T-shirt to help stop the bleeding and one of his bottles of water. I sat there, still in a daze, drinking the water and pouring it over my head. Sitting there on the trail, we both couldn’t believe the fortune of his being there at that critical moment.

It took nearly 15 minutes before I felt stable enough to make my way down the trail with Brian’s help. Halfway down, Chris met us with a cool towel for my neck, and a sports bottle of water and electrolytes, along with a protein bar. As we approached the parking lot and safety, I could not believe what had just happened.

So, what did I learn? Never underestimate the heat. Even if you think you’re used to it, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be deadly. And it can sneak up on you. You may think you can rely on your body to tell you when you’re in danger, but you can’t. You may not know you’re in distress until it’s too late.

What I thought was going to be a routine hike turned into a deadly situation. I found out later that two days earlier, a woman had been found dead on a nearby hiking trail, apparently due to the heat. That could’ve been me.

Someone Who Likes You: The Importance of Girlfriends for Mental Health

When I was little, my aunt gave me her well-loved copy of Jane Walsh Anglund’s book, “A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You.” I loved everything about it: its postcard-sized stature, the simplicity of the text, the whimsical illustrations of children in various states of togetherness, the message that anything can be a friend — a tree, a brook, the wind on your back, a boy, a girl, anyone — as long as they like you. To be fair (despite the author’s claim of bearing fruit and cooling toes), there is no verifiable way to know if a tree or brook actually likes you. But in childhood, when it is sometimes hard to find our people, the option of camaraderie with a redwood tree or ocean tide was comforting.

I discovered my first BFF, Sara, at 7 years old. We rode the same school bus into the mountains where houses nest between acres of pine trees and dogs lunge at fences as you make your way home. We spent summers racing our Huffy two-wheelers down winding roads and perfecting our clubhouse (a tent pitched in the brush behind my shingled A-frame) for The Velvet Rainbows: membership of two, headbands and leg warmers required. Together we discovered grief and first love in the pages of Lurlene McDaniel novels, fear of sleep at the mercy of Wes Craven, and the fate of our futures through Cootie Catchers and the game MASH. (Though, to the chagrin of my 8-year-old-self, I did not end up in a mansion with nine children married to Ryan Cooper.)

Halfway through third grade, I arrived home from school intending to load my pockets with snacks for our daily ritual of afternoon Scooby Doo viewing but instead learned the unwelcome news that my mother had died of cancer. Landmines of sadness flooded me, but even as my timeline broke in two — life as I knew it forever rearranged — I raced down the road to be with my friend.

I didn’t know then that my need for friendship when the world spun off its axis was backed by science. Studies show that people process negative emotions more effectively with help from others. Friends often rally together in difficult times, as Jaclyn Smith’s did during her breast cancer treatment. But it’s not only during life’s major hurdles when social support is crucial. Having others reflect the world back to us — even in daily matters of work, family and child-rearing — is always beneficial to our mental health.

Women in particular benefit from friendship. “Talking through a problem with a friend helps us gain a better understanding of what’s going on with ourselves and whatever we’re struggling with,” explained Jennifer Payne, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Women’s Mood Disorders Center and a member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council. “When people feel like they’re going through something and they’re the only one, it feels so much more devastating.”

Payne also noted, “Women are more likely to admit to friends when they’re not doing well, so from a mental health perspective, friends encourage others to seek treatment when appropriate.”

A recent study linked loneliness to higher stress levels, lower immunity and shorter life span. Researchers found loneliness as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

Girlfriends using Smartphone in Coffeeshop
iStock.com/ferrantraite

How do we find our people if friendship is so vital to our quality of life? Sites like the popular dating app Bumble created a friend-finding feature called Bumble BFF, which as of January 2020, has made over 35 million connections. Groups like The Blue Thong Society, an international network of over 5,000 women, have chapters that meet regularly in cities across the U.S. to plan charitable events and outrageous outings, like their 2022 National Convention that took place aboard a Carnival “Fun Ship.”

One of my friends, Nicole, and I met over a decade ago IRL (in real life). We bonded when our youngest were in strollers, forgoing naps of any kind, as we hung on by a sleepless thread. I invited her over to talk about female friendship because I’ve experienced firsthand her rare dedication to the women in her life. As we chatted, our once-nocturnal-stroller-babies squealed in the pool, interrupting our conversation no less than 17 times, asking us to judge an “underwater-breath-holding-contest.” Not unrelated, we agreed that sustaining friendship requires making an effort wherever it fits. If a friend has an hour free, you go to them to catch up. You make it work.

“For me,” said Nicole, “it’s about showing up and checking in enough that you know what’s going on in their life.” She added, “With that foundation, you can dive into the deeper stuff quicker, so when you ask how someone is, they don’t just say, ‘Fine.’” When asked what draws her to people, Nicole said, “When people can be vulnerable and say, ‘I’m crappy at this,’ when we can be real together, that’s appealing to me.”

While I still enjoy the shade of a tall redwood and dipping my toes in the Pacific, my friendships with women are the touchstones in my life. But I didn’t find my people while worrying about how clean my baseboards were or how well my kids behaved. My truest friendships spawned from honest conversations on neighborhood street corners about what’s messy and broken, expletive-filled text threads about our beloved spouses and children, impromptu playdates where our kids ran amuck and ate goldfish for dinner while we said, “Oh my God, yes!” “I’m here” and “I understand.”

Unlike the family we’re born into, friends are a choice we get to make again and again in an ongoing loop of mutual affection. I think Jane Walsh Anglund was onto something — maybe it is as simple as saving a seat on the school bus, breaking a cookie in half, putting your arm around someone whose world has spun off its axis and watching a favorite show together. Maybe friendship, at its core, is two people who just really like each other.