Misoprostol: a quarter century of use, abuse, and creative misuse

Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2004 Feb;59(2):128-40. doi: 10.1097/01.OGX.0000109168.83489.66.


Misoprostol is a prostaglandin E1 analog originally intended for use to prevent NSAID-induced gastric ulcers. However, because of its cervical ripening and uterotonic property, misoprostol has become one of the most useful drugs in obstetrics and gynecology. Misoprostol has proven to be a very convenient and flexible drug because of its formulation as a tablet that is stable and that can be administered orally, rectally, vaginally and by the sublingual route. Beginning with its abuse for illegal abortion in the late 1980s, misoprostol has quickly become established as one of the most effective drugs for terminating pregnancies in the first and second trimesters, as well as for inducing labor in the third trimester. Its use for routine prevention of postpartum hemorrhage has not been so successful, partly as the high doses required for this indication often result in troublesome side effects. Despite the large body of medical evidence about its efficacy and relative safety, the use of misoprostol in pregnant women remained off-label until the spring of 2002.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / adverse effects
  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / pharmacology
  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Cervical Ripening / drug effects
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced / methods
  • Misoprostol / adverse effects
  • Misoprostol / pharmacology
  • Misoprostol / therapeutic use*
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters


  • Abortifacient Agents, Nonsteroidal
  • Misoprostol