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Abortion Procedure Types

Medication Abortion

Medication abortion refers to a safe and effective process that ends a pregnancy up to 9 weeks, or 63 days, after the first day of a last period. Medication will be administered orally, vaginally or intramuscularly to end a pregnancy. With this method, the patient may complete the process of abortion at home.

The following medications are used in combination:

  • Mifepristone (the abortion pill or RU-486) is a pill that is taken orally. It blocks the hormone progesterone, which is necessary to continue the pregnancy.
  • Misoprostol is usually taken in combination with Mifepristone. It can be taken by swallowing, tucking in the mouth between the check and gum, or vaginally. It causes the uterus to empty. Upon taking misoprostol, a patient may experience various levels of cramping and increased bleeding.

It is important to talk to your health care provider about what you should expect during your medication abortion. It is also important to see your provider for a followup appointment to make sure you have completed your abortion.

Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion is a safe and effective procedure that takes place inside a clinic. Surgical abortion procedures up to 16 weeks after the patient’s last period are quick, taking about 5 to 10 minutes. Procedures performed later than 16 weeks after the patient’s last period usually take between 10 and 20 minutes. If you are later in your pregnancy, you may need to make a second visit to the clinic to complete your abortion. More time in the office will be needed to talk with your provider about the procedure, take a physical exam, read and sign forms, and spend time in recovery.

Most people feel pain similar to menstrual cramps with both of these abortion methods. Patients have the option of choosing their pain medication. Local numbing medicines are usually used. Some clinics offer moderate sedation. General anesthesia may also be offered for certain procedures.

Be sure to talk to your provider about any questions you have about your abortion procedure and the best plan for follow-up. If you have further questions about abortion care, please contact a health care provider listed or visit the websites of Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion Safety and Follow-Up Care

Each year, more than one million Americans have an abortion. Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States. It is very safe. Less than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization. However, as with every medical procedure, there are risks. The risk of abortion increases if the abortion is performed later in pregnancy.

It is important to:

  • Inform health care providers of any past or present health problems.
  • Tell your provider of any current medications or supplements that you use; as well as allergies to medications or pain relief methods.
  • Follow all post-operative instructions and return for a follow-up examination.
  • Ask questions if you are unsure of anything.

Your health care provider will inform you of what to expect and what would be unusual after an abortion procedure.