Abortion Procedures

There are two kinds of abortion: chemical and surgical. 

A chemical abortion is a common method used when a woman is less than 10 weeks pregnant. It involves the administration of two separate medications during a multi-step process. During the first phase, the woman is given Mifeprex orally. The drug blocks progesterone, the hormone necessary for an embryo to survive during pregnancy. Within 48 hours, the woman will be given a second medication called Mifepristone. It causes heavy cramping and bleeding to expel the contents of the uterus, which includes a fertilized egg or developing embryo. 

There are side effects associated with a chemical abortion. They can include nausea, diarrhea, chills, fever, weakness, dizziness, and headache. Women also should expect to have a heavy period for 9 to 16 days. Some women may bleed for up to 30 days. If bleeding persists beyond this, consult your medical practitioner, who can examine you to ensure there are no complications from the procedure. 

A surgical abortion is performed in women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant. During the procedure, the cervix is opened, and the uterus is suctioned out. Tools may be used to physically remove the fetus depending on the trimester of pregnancy and the baby’s level of growth. There are various levels and procedures associated with surgical abortions. They include:

  • Aspiration or suction surgical abortion are common for pregnancies up to 13 weeks. Local anesthesia is administered to control pain. The cervix is opened, and a tube is passed inside. It is attached to a suction device that pulls the fetus out of the womb. 
  • Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) is used for pregnancies that are 13 to 28 weeks along. Local anesthesia and sedation are commonly used during the procedure. The differences between this and aspiration is the cervix must be opened much wider. Forceps are also used to grasp fetal parts and remove them in pieces from the womb. There is a much higher risk for complications for the mother with a D&E. 
  • D&E After Viability, also known as a late-term surgical abortion, is used in pregnancies of 24 weeks or more. It can take 2 to 3 days to perform the procedure and increases the risk of serious complications (even death) for the mother. Drugs are injected into the amniotic fluid to stop the baby’s heart before the procedure begins. Then, the amniotic sac is broken and forceps are used to remove the fetus in pieces. 

Other considerations before having an abortion:

  • Heavy bleeding can occur after an abortion and last for 9 to 16 days. 
  • 1 in 100 women need “surgical scraping” to stop the bleeding. 
  • Abortions of pregnancies that are 8 weeks or more along may include identifiable body parts. At 10 weeks, the baby is more than an inch in length and has formed arms, legs, hands, and feet. 
  • Methotrexate, an FDA-approved drug for treating some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis, is also used to treat ectopic pregnancies to induce abortion. It works by stopping cell growth, which causes the embryo to die. 

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