Types of Abortion Procedures: How Do They Affect Me?

When you find out you are unexpectedly pregnant, it can feel like your whole world has been turned upside down and you wonder if your life will ever be the way it was before. It’s a scary time, and it can be hard to not only deal with what you do know, but also to get information on what you don’t know. If you are considering different types of abortion procedures, you might wonder how they would affect you.

Pre-Abortion Screening

There are several different types of abortion procedures, and which one is chosen is based on how far along you are in your pregnancy. Before you get further into that, though, let us tell you why a pre-abortion screening is important for you.

The first step in the screening process is a no-cost pregnancy test to confirm your at-home results. This is done because, occasionally, the at-home results are wrong, and we want to make sure we have accurate results. The next step is a no-cost ultrasound that will confirm how far along your pregnancy is and if the pregnancy is viable or likely to end in miscarriage.

Up to 50 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, half of them before the woman even knows she is pregnant. More than 80 percent of miscarriages take place within the first three months of pregnancy, also called the first trimester [1].

Symptoms of a miscarriage include bleeding, which can start light and increase to heavy, severe cramps, abdominal pain, fever, weakness and back pain [1].

The final step for pre-abortion screening is testing for STDs. This is because, left untreated, STDs can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) leading to chronic pain and infertility [2]. Identification and treatment for an STD before an abortion procedure is essential so don’t wait to be tested.

Types of Abortion

Your abortion options will vary depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy and your own medical history. The two types of abortions are medical abortions and surgical abortions.

Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is also known as the abortion pill. It is done up to ten weeks (70 days) since the first day of a woman’s last menstrual cycle [3]. It consists of taking two pills.

The first pill, mifepristone, is taken at a clinic. It causes the pregnancy to detach from the uterine lining by blocking a hormone called progesterone. The second pill, misoprostol, is usually taken at home the next day. This medication causes cramping in order to expel the fetus from the uterus.

The medications used in medical abortion have additional side effects and risks, which can also affect you [3]. These can include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Failed abortion requiring a surgical abortion

Medical abortion is considered less invasive than a surgical abortion, so many women choose it if it’s an option for them. However, other women find it difficult to pass the fetus at home, and this will be something to take into consideration. The medical abortion is about 90% effective meaning that you would not have to follow-up a failed medical abortion with a surgical abortion [4].

Surgical Abortion

If a doctor determines that medical abortion isn’t a good option for you, a surgical abortion might be an option. There are two kinds of surgical abortions: aspiration, and dilation and evacuation (D&E).

Aspiration abortion is also referred to as a vacuum aspiration abortion [4]. It can be done in the clinic or hospital between 6 and 15 weeks gestation. For this procedure, local anesthesia is used to numb the cervix. You may also be given a sedative medication to keep you more comfortable. You can expect to feel mild to moderate cramping during the vacuum portion of the procedure, which lasts about 5-10 minutes.

You should rest the day of the abortion and can usually return to light activities in the next day or two [4]. It’s important not to lift anything heavy while you are recovering.

Between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, a D&E abortion is performed [4]. Abortion procedures done after 16 weeks, up through 24 weeks are considered late-term abortions. How late they can be done is up to each individual state.

The D&E abortion takes about 10-20 minutes. It is similar to the aspiration abortion, but additional surgical instruments and procedures are needed to empty the uterus.

Since the pregnancy is further along, the recovery period is a little longer after a D&E abortion vs. an aspiration abortion.

Like medical abortions, surgical abortions also have side effects, which can include:

  • Bleeding and/or blood clots
  • Cramping
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Faint feeling

Most women experience some level of side effects, but most do not experience serious risks. Keep in mind that the chance of complications from an abortion increase the further along your pregnancy, and it’s important to know what the risks are so that you can make an informed decision [4].

Risks of surgical abortion can include:

  • Infection/PID
  • Damage to cervix
  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Part of the fetus left in the uterus

Making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy is very difficult. In fact, it is one of the most important decisions you will make. Even if you feel like you made a confident decision for abortion, it is normal to grieve and feel conflicted afterward – sometimes even years later. If you are suffering emotionally after an abortion, our compassionate advocates are available to offer emotional support and post-abortion healing groups to help you cope.

Come In for Testing and Information

Make an appointment today at Pregnancy Care Clinic for no-cost, pre-abortion testing and more information on abortions and alternatives to abortion. Our caring, supportive advocates will be there for you every step of the way. We will be with you from testing, to providing you the unbiased, critical information you need, and answering your questions. As you make a thoughtful decision on what is best for you, we will guide you through your situation in a quiet, comforting, non-judgmental environment.

[1] WebMD. (n.d.). Miscarriage symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Retrieved May 9, 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage#1

[2] Center for Disease Control. (n.d.). Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): CDC Fact Sheet. Retrieved August 3, 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/std/pid/stdfact-pid.htm

[3] Gotter, Ana. (2016, August 30). Abortion Pill: What Is A Medical Abortion. Retrieved August 3, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/abortion-pill

[4] Gotter, Ana. (2016, August 30). Surgical Abortion. Retrieved August 3, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/surgical-abortion#overview