What Types of Abortions Are Available?

The type of abortion used to terminate a pregnancy is determined by how far a woman’s pregnancy has progressed. The first step is for the woman to receive a sonogram so the pregnancy can be dated accurately and conditions such as ectopic pregnancy can be ruled out.

Medical abortions are only available through the first 9 weeks of pregnancy—meaning that a woman can terminate her pregnancy through medication only. After 9 weeks, surgical intervention is required to terminate the pregnancy.

The available options for abortion are:

1st Trimester (Week 1 – Week 13)

Medical:

  • Methotrexate & Misoprostol (MTX). Used through the first 7 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Mifepristone and Misoprostol. The most common medication used for abortion. Commonly referred to as the “abortion pill” or RU-486. May be used until 10 weeks.

Side Effects: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, sores in the mouth, headache, dizziness, insomnia, and vaginal bleeding. 

Surgical:

  • Manual vacuum aspiration. Performed under local anesthetic, this method can be performed during weeks 5-12 from the woman’s last menstrual cycle.
  • Aspiration (machine vacuum). Used from 5-12 weeks of pregnancy, this method is sometimes performed under general anesthesia.

Recovery typically includes irregular bleeding, cramping, and emotional reactions.

Complications: Severe bleeding, vomiting, severe pain, infection (signs include fever, dizziness, muscle aches, headache)

2nd Trimester (Week 13 – Week 26)

  • Dilation & Curettage (D & C):  performed up to 16 weeks gestation, this procedure is accomplished by dilating the cervix and scraping the inside of the uterus with a sharp object called a curette.
  • Dilation & Evacuation (D & E): A combination procedure of vacuum aspiration and D & C.
  • Induction Abortion: this rarely used procedure is also performed for late-term abortions (see below)

Side Effects: cramping, spotting and light bleeding, emotional reactions, and possible side effects from anesthesia (if used).

Complications: Damaged cervix, perforated uterus or bowel (rare), heavy or prolonged bleeding, blood clots, fever, pain, abdominal tenderness, infection, abnormal vaginal discharge. 

3rd Trimester (Week 27 – Week 40)

Usually referred to as “late-term abortions,” abortions performed after week 27 (or in some cases, week 24 when the fetus is considered viable) are illegal in several states except in special circumstances—such as the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

Different states have different laws, but in the state of Georgia, abortion is illegal after the second trimester and can carry penalties such as imprisonment and fines.

Laws concerning abortion are continually changing, so questions concerning the legality of an abortion should be directed towards a licensed attorney familiar with state laws.

During the third trimester, 2 options are available to terminate a pregnancy:

  • Induction abortion. This uncommon procedure is typically performed by injecting salt water, potassium chloride, or digoxin into the fetus or amniotic sac, while the woman is given medication to soften the cervix and an injection of Pitocin to induce uterine contractions.
  • Dilation and extraction. The most common form of abortion performed in the third trimester, this method is commonly referred to as D & X. The method can have various forms, both partial and intact, but the procedure is the same: the woman’s cervix is dilated enough to remove the fetus, and cranial decompression may be used for ease of extraction.

Side Effects: cramping, spotting and light bleeding, emotional reactions, and possible side effects from anesthesia (if used).

Complications: damage to the uterus during the injection procedure, excessive bleeding, infection, excessive pain, uterine rupture (rare).

 

If you would like to speak to us about your pregnancy or your options, call us at 770.924.0864. We can speak on a confidential basis by phone, or you can text us at 770.217.4317.

If you have recently had an abortion and are experiencing any of the complications listed above, please contact your medical provider immediately.