The most common early first-trimester medical abortion regimens use mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analog (misoprostol or gemeprost) up to 9 weeks gestational age, methotrexate in combination with a prostaglandin analog up to 7 weeks gestation, or a prostaglandin analog alone.Mifepristone–misoprostol combination regimens work faster and are more effective at later gestational ages than methotrexate–misoprostol combination regimens, and combination regimens are more effective than misoprostol alone. This regime is effective in the second trimester.
In very early abortions, up to 7 weeks gestation, medical abortion using a mifepristone–misoprostol combination regimen is considered to be more effective than surgical abortion (vacuum aspiration), especially when clinical practice does not include detailed inspection of aspirated tissue. Early medical abortion regimens using mifepristone, followed 24–48 hours later by buccal or vaginal misoprostol are 98% effective up to 9 weeks gestational age. If medical abortion fails, surgical abortion must be used to complete the procedure.
Early medical abortions account for the majority of abortions before 9 weeks gestation in Britain, France, Switzerland, and the Nordic countries. In the United States, the percentage of early medical abortions is far lower.
Medical abortion regimens using mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analog are the most common methods used for second-trimester abortions in Canada, most of Europe, China and India, in contrast to the United States where 96% of second-trimester abortions are performed surgically by dilation and evacuation