Cytotec: Uses, Side-Effects & Contraindications

Clinical review: Flávia Costa
September 2022

Cytotec is a medication that contains misoprostol, which is a substance that was initially created to treat stomach ulcers. It helps to block the production of gastric acid and stimulates mucus production to protect that stomach walls. 

However, it was also noted to trigger utrine contractions and soften the cervix, which can seriously affect pregnancy and cause a miscarraige. For this reason, misoprostol was eventually only approved for the prescribed use of inducing a miscarriage or labor. 

Cytotec should not be used without a prescription, as it can seriously impact your health, especially in pregnant women. Use of this medication without medical guidance can cause miscarriage or fetal deformities. 

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Where to purchase

Cytotec can be obtained with a prescription at pharmacies to indice miscarriage or labor. Due to its serious side effects, women are typically monitored by their doctor when taking it and require prompt follow-up after taking it. 

Medical uses

At first, this medication was indicated for the treatment of stomach ulcers, gastritis, healing of duodenal ulcers, gastroenteritis and peptic ulcer disease.

Misoprostol can be used to induce labor by softening the cervix and triggering contractions. It may also be prescribed post-labor to reduce uterine bleeding. These uses are not approved by FDA and are prescribed as off-label uses, as there is no scientific evidence to support that the medication is safe for these uses. 

This medication is also often prescribed to induce abortion, either by choice or following fetal death. It is ideally taken within the first trimester. 

How to take it

Misoprostol should only be taken with your doctor’s knowledge, as it requires monitoring and evaluation when taking and after. 

Cytotec causes uterine contractions, therefore it should not be used during pregnancy if the treatment goal is not to induce a miscarriage or labor. 

Possible side effects

Some side effects associated with this medication include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, chills, rash, fetal deformities, dizziness, constipation, difficulty digesting and excess gas. 

Who should not take it

Cytotec should be taken as advised by an obstetrician, in a clinical enviornment. It should not be taken by those with allergies to prostaglandins, or by women with a history of uterine surgery (e.g. cesarian section birth). It should also not be taken by patients with a history of a cerebral vascular accident or coronary artery disease. 

This medication should not be used during pregnancy, unless prescribed by a doctor. 

Cytotec should not be used in within 4 hours of taking another NSAIDs.

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Written and updated by Daisy Oliveira - Registered Nurse on September of 2022. Clinical review by Flávia Costa - Pharmacist, on September of 2022.


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Clinical review:
Flávia Costa
Graduated in Pharmacy at Centro Universitário Newton Paiva, Brazil, in 2003. Master in Biomedical Sciences at UBI, Portugal.