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Misoprostol (By mouth)

Prevents stomach ulcers caused by NSAID drugs.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Misoprostol is taken to prevent stomach ulcers in patients taking anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin. Misoprostol may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor. Misoprostol helps the stomach protect itself against acid damage. It also decreases the amount of acid produced by the stomach. This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription. Once a medicine… Read more
Brand names include
Cytotec
Drug classes About this
Antiulcer, Protectant, Endocrine-Metabolic Agent
Combinations including this drug

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Advance distribution of misoprostol for preventing and treating excessive blood loss after birth

Excessive blood loss after birth remains an important cause of severe ill health and death of mothers particularly in settings where births still occur at home. The commonly used drugs (oxytocin and ergometrine) that help to reduce blood loss by making the womb contract immediately after birth need to be given by injection, and therefore cannot be used in the absence of a trained health professional. They also need to be stored in the refrigerator to remain effective. Misoprostol, another drug that helps the womb to contract strongly after birth, has an advantage over oxytocin and ergometrine because it is almost as effective, can be given by mouth and does not have any special storage requirements. Its side effects (particularly fever and shivering) are often minor and self‐limiting and so do not require any additional medication. For these reasons, misoprostol could be used by lay health workers and the women themselves or a family member in places where births outside of a health facility are the norm. In some remote parts of the world where home birth is unavoidable, providing misoprostol well ahead of labour and childbirth to lay health workers and pregnant women themselves for self‐use has recently become an attractive approach to ensure that the drug is available to the women who need it at the point of birth. However, there are concerns that misoprostol provided in this way may cause harm to the mother and her baby if used for other purposes such as starting labour or terminating a pregnancy. This review set out to determine whether increasing access to misoprostol by providing it ahead of labour and childbirth to lay individuals makes a difference to the health of the mother and her baby. The review found that no randomised trials had been conducted on this topic. There is therefore insufficient evidence to support a system of distributing misoprostol ahead of labour and childbirth within the community for preventing or treating excessive blood loss after birth.

Misoprostol for induction of labour to terminate pregnancy in the second or third trimester for women with a fetal anomaly or following intrauterine fetal death

A woman may need to give birth prior to the spontaneous onset of labour in middle to late pregnancy to terminate the pregnancy in situations where the fetus, if born alive, would not survive or would have permanent handicaps, or where the fetus has died in utero (also called a stillbirth). Misoprostol is a prostaglandin medication that can be used to induce labour in these situations. This review included 38 randomised controlled studies, involving 3679 women. Vaginal misoprostol was as effective as other agents in inducing labour and achieving vaginal birth within 24 hours, with a reduction in the occurrence of maternal side effects. Side effects include gastrointestinal disturbance (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea). The information on rare adverse events (including uterine rupture) is limited.

Buccal or sublingual misoprostol for cervical ripening and induction of labour

Not enough evidence to say if misoprostol administered under the tongue or in the cheek is safe for induction of labour.

See all (113)

Summaries for consumers

Advance distribution of misoprostol for preventing and treating excessive blood loss after birth

Excessive blood loss after birth remains an important cause of severe ill health and death of mothers particularly in settings where births still occur at home. The commonly used drugs (oxytocin and ergometrine) that help to reduce blood loss by making the womb contract immediately after birth need to be given by injection, and therefore cannot be used in the absence of a trained health professional. They also need to be stored in the refrigerator to remain effective. Misoprostol, another drug that helps the womb to contract strongly after birth, has an advantage over oxytocin and ergometrine because it is almost as effective, can be given by mouth and does not have any special storage requirements. Its side effects (particularly fever and shivering) are often minor and self‐limiting and so do not require any additional medication. For these reasons, misoprostol could be used by lay health workers and the women themselves or a family member in places where births outside of a health facility are the norm. In some remote parts of the world where home birth is unavoidable, providing misoprostol well ahead of labour and childbirth to lay health workers and pregnant women themselves for self‐use has recently become an attractive approach to ensure that the drug is available to the women who need it at the point of birth. However, there are concerns that misoprostol provided in this way may cause harm to the mother and her baby if used for other purposes such as starting labour or terminating a pregnancy. This review set out to determine whether increasing access to misoprostol by providing it ahead of labour and childbirth to lay individuals makes a difference to the health of the mother and her baby. The review found that no randomised trials had been conducted on this topic. There is therefore insufficient evidence to support a system of distributing misoprostol ahead of labour and childbirth within the community for preventing or treating excessive blood loss after birth.

Misoprostol for induction of labour to terminate pregnancy in the second or third trimester for women with a fetal anomaly or following intrauterine fetal death

A woman may need to give birth prior to the spontaneous onset of labour in middle to late pregnancy to terminate the pregnancy in situations where the fetus, if born alive, would not survive or would have permanent handicaps, or where the fetus has died in utero (also called a stillbirth). Misoprostol is a prostaglandin medication that can be used to induce labour in these situations. This review included 38 randomised controlled studies, involving 3679 women. Vaginal misoprostol was as effective as other agents in inducing labour and achieving vaginal birth within 24 hours, with a reduction in the occurrence of maternal side effects. Side effects include gastrointestinal disturbance (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea). The information on rare adverse events (including uterine rupture) is limited.

Buccal or sublingual misoprostol for cervical ripening and induction of labour

Not enough evidence to say if misoprostol administered under the tongue or in the cheek is safe for induction of labour.

See all (35)

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