If you’re considering abortion, it’s important that you’re fully educated on the different abortion procedures and risks, so you can make the best choice for your body and long-term health. Listed below are the types of abortion procedures, what stage in pregnancy you can receive them and the difference between each.
First Trimester (1-13 weeks)
Since this is an early stage in pregnancy, before anything else, you’ll need an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and determine how far along you are. Find a pregnancy help center, like Palm Beach Women’s Clinic, to receive a free and confidential limited obstetric ultrasound. Once you receive an ultrasound, you can consider the following options below.
Also, keep in mind that because it is such an early stage, you will most likely have the option between medical and surgical procedures, while later in pregnancy the growth development of the unborn baby will limit you to only surgical procedures.
- Up to 6 weeks: Methotrexate (MTX). This procedure is a medical procedure that has the same effects on the baby as a miscarriage. MTX is injected in a dose based on the woman’s height and weight and is most effective the earlier it’s taken. After the procedure, you will birth the unborn, deceased baby (like a miscarriage) anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks later. This procedure has a 1-10% failure rate, so if the “miscarriage” does not work a surgical abortion will be required to fully remove anything that is left. Side effects include mouth sores, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, vaginal bleeding and more.
- Up to 10 weeks: RU-486/the “abortion pill.” This is not the same as the morning after pill, which is an emergency contraceptive. While RU-486 can be taken up to the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, it is most effective before the 8-week mark. This procedure is a series of two pills: one the nurse or doctor gives you at the clinic, the other you take yourself at home up to two days later. The second pill will work similar to the process of a miscarriage – you’ll experience cramping and bleeding as your body pushes out the deceased baby. Side effects from this process are dizziness, mild fever, nausea, fatigue, cramping, heavy bleeding and more. Also be aware that there have been deaths associated with this procedure due to women choosing not following up with doctors afterward.
- As early as 3 to 12 weeks: Manual or Machine Vacuum Aspiration. The procedure uses a syringe or a machine vacuum inserted through the vagina that applies suction to remove the baby from the uterus. This procedure usually takes 10 to 15 minutes with a local anesthetic and must be done in a clinic or medical office. The normal healing process after the procedure includes irregular bleeding, stomach cramps and emotional reactions, such as guilt and sadness. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make the emotional reactions more intense than what you’re used to.
Second Trimester (13-27 weeks)
In the second trimester, medicinal procedures are no longer an option. Abortions this far in the pregnancy must be performed surgically due to the increased development of the baby.
- Up to 16 weeks: Dilation and curettage (D&C). This procedure dilates the cervix and uses an instrument called a curette to remove the baby from inside the uterus by either suction or scraping it out. Normal side effects include cramping and bleeding after the procedure. Risks involved with this procedure include possible damage to the cervix, scar tissue or damage to the uterine wall and infection.
- Up to 16 weeks: Dilation and evacuation (D&E). This procedure includes a combination of the D&C procedure, vacuum aspiration and surgical instruments (like forceps). The cervix will be dilated and the vacuum and curette will be used to remove the baby from the uterus. For pregnancies longer than 16 weeks, larger individual body parts may also need to be removed with forceps. After the procedure, you can expect irregular bleeding, cramps and emotional reactions.
- Around 25 weeks: induction abortion. While this abortion is more common in the third trimester, it can be done at the very end of the second. The procedure can take place over 4 days and is more intense because of the development progress of the child. The first two days involve procedures at a hospital that make sure the baby is no longer living. The next two or more days include waiting for dilation and then returning to the hospital to birth the deceased child. D&E may also be needed if not all of the body parts are removed. Normal recovery includes cramping, irregular bleeding and emotional reactions. Risks also include excessive bleeding, infection and potential damage to the uterus.
Third Trimester (27+ weeks)
Because of the stage in pregnancy, late-term procedures performed include significantly greater risks to health and have the possibility of failing. Options are also limited.
- Induction abortion. More common in this stage of pregnancy rather than in the second trimester. See above.
- Dilation and extraction. Similar to induction abortion, the procedure can take multiple days and involves removing the intact baby. Forceps and vacuums may also be needed to remove other individual body parts. Common side effects include cramping and bleeding and less frequent complications include heavy bleeding, blood clots, damage to cervix, nausea and more.
As you can tell, a lot of thought and consideration can go into deciding your options. More importantly, if you’re thinking about abortion, it’s imperative that you take into consideration all the other details, like the development of the baby and potential health effects the procedures can have. If you would like more information about abortion procedures and to further discuss your options, contact Palm Beach Women’s Clinic for a free and confidential appointment.
Palm Beach Women’s Clinic does not perform or refer for abortion procedures.