Misoprostol: Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Bethany Lieberman

Bethany is a certified OB/GYN nurse who has a master's degree in Nursing Education.

This lesson will familiarize you with the drug misoprostol, its only approved use to prevent stomach ulcers and the alternative uses in pregnancy that are more commonly known but also dangerous.

What Is Misoprostol?

Have you ever had a women tell you she had to have her labor induced, or maybe know someone who had a miscarriage and needed medication? These women were most likely given a drug to induce labor called misoprostol. But the strange thing is that the use of misoprostol is not intended for use in pregnancy and is only approved by the FDA to be used to prevent stomach ulcers in the United States. It even says so in huge letters on the packaging - not intended for use in pregnancy.

Misoprostol, more commonly known as cytotec, is a prostaglandin analog that is used to prevent stomach ulcers in people who take pain medication that can be irritating to the stomach, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Misoprostol works by decreasing the amount of stomach acid and increasing the amount of protective mucus that lines the inside of the stomach. It comes in a tablet form, usually 100 micrograms and can be taken every four hours by mouth. It is most effective if taken after meals and at bedtime.

Side Effects

Since misoprostol works in the stomach, the majority of the side effects occur in the digestive system. The most common side effects are abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some less common side effects are gas, vomiting, constipation, indigestion, and headache. Remember the part about it not being intended for pregnancy, well it can cause vaginal bleeding in women, and there are strict guidelines that must be adhered to when given to women of childbearing age.

Misoprostol can be dangerous because it causes women to expel the contents of their uterus by stimulating contractions! So if a woman is pregnant, this means her baby may be aborted if she takes this medication. Providers must ensure that women who take this medication for ulcer prevention take a pregnancy test and are on a reliable form of birth control before taking misoprostol.

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