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There are two main types of abortion in the United States: “Medical” abortions use drugs, instead of surgical instruments, to end a pregnancy. “Surgical” abortions use a combination of drugs and surgical instruments.
1st Trimester Medical Abortion
“The Abortion Pill” (Mifepristone plus Misoprostol) is the most common form of medical abortion. It was approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use in women up to 10 weeks after their last menstrual period (1st Trimester of pregnancy). It is done by taking a series of two pills: the first one loosens the embryo’s attachment to the uterus and the second one causes uterine cramps that push the embryo out.
Things to consider:
- Bleeding can be heavy and lasts an average of 9-16 days.
- One woman in 100 need a surgical scraping to stop the bleeding.
- Pregnancies sometimes fail to abort, and this risk increases as pregnancy advances.
- Identifiable body parts may be seen in pregnancies of 8 weeks and beyond. At 10 weeks, the developing baby is over one inch in length with clearly recognizable arms, legs, hands, and feet.
- Methotrexate is FDA-approved for treating certain cancers and rheumatoid arthritis but is used off-label to treat ectopic pregnancies and to induce abortion. The drug is given by mouth or injection and works by stopping cell growth, resulting in the embryo’s death.
Medical Induced (or Induction) Abortion
This procedure induces abortion by using drugs to cause labor and delivery of the fetus and placenta. Drugs may be injected into the fetus or the amniotic fluid to stop the baby’s heart before starting the procedure to avoid a live birth. There is a risk of heavy bleeding from this procedure, and the placenta may need to be surgically removed.
Surgical abortions are done by opening the cervix and passing instruments into the uterus to suction, grasp, pull, and scrape the fetus out. The exact procedure is determined by the baby’s level of growth.
Aspiration or Suction Surgical Abortion
Most early surgical abortions up to 13 weeks after the last menstrual period (1st Trimester) are performed using this method. Local anesthesia is typically offered to reduce pain. The abortion involves opening the cervix, passing a tube inside the uterus, and attaching it to suction device that pulls the fetus out.
Dilation and Evacuation Surgical Abortion (D&E)
Most 2nd Trimester abortions (13 weeks up to 28 weeks) are performed using this method. Local anesthesia, oral or intravenous pain medications and sedation are commonly used. Besides the need to open the cervix much wider, the main difference between this procedure and a 1st Trimester surgical abortion is the use of forceps to grasp fetal parts and remove the baby in pieces. D&E is associated with a much higher risk of complications compared to a 1st Trimester surgical abortion.
D&E After Viability or Late-Term Surgical Abortion
The procedure used for pregnancies of 24 weeks and up typically takes 2–3 days and is associated with increased risk to the life and health of the mother. General anesthesia is usually recommended, if available. Drugs may be injected into the fetus or the amniotic fluid to stop the baby’s heart before starting the procedure. The cervix is opened wide, the amniotic sac is broken, and forceps are used to dismember the fetus. The “Intact D&E” pulls the fetus out legs first, then crushes the skull in order to remove the fetus in one piece.
If you are considering having an abortion, setting up a confidential appointment at one of our Centers is your best first step for the following reasons:
Our Centers do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions or abortifacients. We are committed to offering accurate, up-to-date information about abortion procedures and risks.
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