Abortion Procedures Explained

Abortion Methods

The Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)

*Used up to 70 days from LMP

First, your health care provider will give you an oral dose of mifepristone. This drug blocks your body’s own progesterone and will interfere with the natural function of your body by softening and breaking down the lining of your uterus. You will take a second medicine- misoprostol to make your uterus contract to push the fetus from your body, in a process similar to labor. Your health care provider will give you instructions on how and when to take the second medicine.

In-Clinic Abortion Procedures (Surgical Abortions)

Suction Aspiration

*6-16 weeks LMP

For this procedure, you lie on your back with your feet in stirrups, and the health care provider may apply a shot of anesthetic to your cervix to reduce pain. Your cervical muscle is stretched, or “dilated,” until the opening is wide enough to allow the abortion tools to pass into your uterus. Next the health care provider will guide one end of a tube through the cervix and into your uterus. The tube is either attached to a suction machine or to a device called a “manual vacuum aspirator”. After suction is initiated with the machine, you will feel the suction, which is used to pull the placenta and embryo into parts small enough to pass out of your body through tube.

D & C (Dilation & Curettage)

*4-16 weeks LMP

The health care provider opens your cervix, as described above, but in this case a loop-shaped tool is used to scrape the wall of your uterus. This reduces the embryo and placenta into parts small enough to pull them out of your body through the cervix. Anesthesia is usually used for this procedure.

D & E (Dilation & Evacuation)

*16-24 weeks LMP

Because the fetus is larger by this time, the health care provider must use a medical instrument called a forceps. This tool, similar to a set of pliers, is used to pull apart the fetus into small enough parts that are able to be removed from your body through the cervix.

It’s tough to imagine the future and the impact this one decision will have on your life. Despite the pressure you feel, you need to weigh your options. Before you choose to have an abortion, carefully consider all of the risks.

Physical Risks

General Side Effects

Side effects for both medication abortion and surgical abortions include cramping, bleeding, nausea, diarrhea, and pain.

The Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)

The abortion pill can be unreliable in some cases, and the abortion will be incomplete. If so, you will be need to have a surgical abortion.

In-Clinic Abortion Procedures (Surgical Abortions)

In both the D & C and D & E procedures, the health care provider is unable to see inside your uterus during the procedure, which can increase the risk of perforation (where the abortion tools may accidentally be pushed through the wall of your uterus). The D & E procedure requires that your cervix be opened wider than during a suction aspiration or D & C, and as a result there is a greater risk of infection. Infections in general are even more of a risk if you have chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Emotional | Psychological Risks

Some women may feel immediate feelings of relief following an abortion, but others find themselves facing feelings they did not expect. They may have a difficult time talking about these feelings. Some psychologists have labeled these problems as post-abortion stress. You may recognize some of the following side effects in your friends or family members who have had abortions. These are several of the outcomes you may experience after having an abortion.

  • sadness
  • anger
  • guilt/emotional pain
  • sexual dysfunction
  • difficulty maintaining relationships
  • memory repression
  • increased alcohol and drug abuse
  • flashbacks
  • long-term grief anniversary reactions
  • suicidal thoughts

*The Pregnancy Resource Center offers Post Abortion Recovery Counseling.