This Drug Eases Miscarriage Pain -- So Why Don't More Women Have Access To It?

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 

My first pregnancy really didn’t have any symptoms to go along with it. And even though that’s not always a cause for concern, it still didn’t sit quite well with my soul. So when I was 10 weeks pregnant and began spotting bright, red blood, my gut told me that something was wrong. Unfortunately, a vaginal ultrasound confirmed my worst fears. I was sadly experiencing a missed miscarriage.

Because I wasn’t too far along in my pregnancy, misoprostol was prescribed to allow my body to miscarry naturally on it’s own. Misoprostol works by contracting the uterus muscles, softening the cervix, and allowing a woman’s body to miscarry on her own.

For me, it didn’t work. All it did was give me a little heavier bleeding than I was already experiencing and some horrible cramps to go along with it.

Since the medication didn’t work, I ended up having a D&C one week later. But wouldn’t you know that the doctor didn’t “get it all” during that procedure?

After three ultrasounds and a couple more rounds of misoprostol, my doctor decided to try and gather the leftover “remnants” from my uterus while I was fully awake and non-medicated.

It was more than uncomfortable. Not to mention, it was painful to the point that my body uncontrollably shook for hours after the fact. It felt like she was taking a humongous nasal aspirator to the lining of my uterus and suctioning whatever was up in there…. because (essentially) she was.

When I went to stand up and leave, I began hemorrhaging excessive blood from my vagina. My natural reaction told me to stop the bleeding, so I began grabbing handfuls of paper towels and exam gowns to press against my vagina, but I was still bleeding through.

The doctor rushed in, fixed the “nick,” as she called it, and I went about my day.

Basically, this process completely sucked.

So it’s a little aggravating to find out that just another round of a different pill, which when combined with the one I was already taking could have potentially shortened this prolonged disaster.

It’s called mifepristone and it works much like misoprostol. It basically causes a woman to have a heavy period, while the risks of excessive bleeding are small. And when mifepristone and misoprostol are used in conjunction with one another, the chances of miscarrying without the need for a D&C are much higher.

According to NPR, research shows that women tend to prefer either surgery or medication to deal with a missed miscarriage. But because a single dose of misoprostol fails about 30 percent of the time, as it did in my case, many women are forced to go back to their doctors for a second dose or to get the surgery. And as my situation shows, sometimes multiple doses of misoprostol aren’t enough and surgery is still necessary.

The American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists now recommends this two-drug regimen when helping women miscarry on their own as recent research has shown 90% of women miscarried when using this two-drug method without the need for surgical intervention. But as for the women solely taking misoprostol, their chances of miscarrying without surgical treatment stood at 76%.

So why wasn’t I offered this pill when misoprostol was failing me and 30% of miscarrying women in America today?

Mifepristone has been heavily regulated ever since the Food and Drug Administration approved it as a medication for abortions in 2000. This has put certain restrictions in place and made it harder to come by, since many refer to this drug as the “abortion pill.”

Mifepristone is regulated by the FDA under something referred as the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). This is put in place to ensure that extra safety is mandated when this pill is distributed. While most physicians and the FDA consider mifepristone safe, that’s not enough to keep the REMS regulations at bay.

These REMS restrictions make mifepristone impossible for physicians to prescribe for pick-up at your local pharmacy, and unfortunately, it’s only available at a clinic or hospital designated as a mifepristone supplier.

It’s sanctimonious bullshit is what it is.

“Misoprostol alone has really not been a therapeutic invention,” said Courtney Schreiber, an OB-GYN in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. “[Mifepristone] offers them a sense of control over their own bodies and their own process when they feel that they’ve already lost an element of control.”

Not everyone’s life mirrors one another, and there’s a sense of dignity when we are faced with a choice pertaining to terrible outcomes of our lives. When surgery was the only option for my missed miscarriage, I was left with an out-of-pocket $2,000+ hospital bill. It’s been five years since then and the bill still isn’t paid off.

For so many mothers experiencing a miscarriage, surgery is a last-resort type of ordeal for one reason or another. The important thing is, though, the reasons don’t matter. Our bodies are not all the same. We need to start taking heed of this and treating each patient with respect.

It’s heart wrenching enough to live through a pregnancy loss. Let’s offer every support system (including medications) we can to help lighten this burden.

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