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  • Writer's pictureMosaic Health

Two Most Common Types of Abortion and How They Work

When facing an unplanned pregnancy, it’s completely normal to take time to understand the various options available to you.

If you’re considering abortion, you’ll want to take extra time to understand the different abortion methods and the risks associated with each. 

Medical Abortion

How do medication abortions work?

Medication abortions (also known as the abortion pill) are available to women in the first trimester (6-12 weeks) of pregnancy and are performed using medications instead of surgery. Medical abortion utilizes two drugs taken to end the pregnancy. The first pill taken as part of the medication abortion process is called Mifepristone, also known as RU-486. This pill is administered in a doctor’s office and blocks your body’s production of progesterone. Progesterone is a naturally-occurring hormone that works to stabilize the lining of the uterus. When the lining of the uterus begins to break down, the pregnancy stops receiving the blood and nutrients it needs to survive. 

What are the side effects and risks of a medication abortion? 

A medication abortion can be physically and emotionally intense, and women should be prepared to face these common side effects: – Intense cramping and pain 

– Persistent bleeding (lasting around 9-16 days)  

– Nausea

– Vomiting

– Diarrhea

– Headaches 

More serious risks can come in the case of an untreated incomplete abortion or ectopic pregnancy. Some women experience infection and septic shock as a result of these serious conditions. In addition to the physical risks, it’s important to note many women experience severe emotional and mental side effects as a result of medication abortions. Because the abortion process is completed at home, women are often alone when their pregnancy passes from the uterus. This experience can result in lasting trauma, and can lead to other serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety. 

Surgical Abortions

How do surgical abortions work? 

Surgical abortions are another form of abortion that can be performed from the beginning of the pregnancy all the way to the due date, though most states prohibit abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy. There are several different types of surgical abortions, each varying in their methods and depend largely on the size and level of development of the pregnancy. 

First-Trimester Abortions 

Dilatation and Curettage (D&C)

This form of abortion is performed within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. In this method, the cervix is first dilated with a metal dilation tool. Next, the curettage tool is inserted into the uterus and used to scrape the pregnancy from the uterus and vagina. 

Suction Curettage

This common abortion method can also be performed earlier in the pregnancy, up until the 14th week. Like the D&C procedure, this method requires that the cervix be dilated so that a plastic tube can be inserted into the uterus. This tube is connected to a suction device that will be used to pull the fetus apart and through the tube. After the fetus is mostly suctioned out of the uterus, the doctor will likely use the curettage tool to scrape the uterus and ensure that there is no tissue remaining. 

Second-Trimester Abortions 

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

This procedure is performed in the second trimester of the pregnancy, between 13 and 24 weeks of development. Like the other abortion methods, the cervix must be dilated, only this time it will be dilated wider to allow for the more developed fetus to pass. At this point in development, the fetus is too large to be suctioned out, requiring the doctor to use forceps to break apart the fetal tissue and bones. The curette is then used to ensure the uterus is fully emptied. 

Third-Trimester Abortions 

Late-Term Abortions

This intense three-day abortion process can occur after 20 weeks. First, the procedure involves an injection into the fetus to cause fetal demise. The cervix is then stretched open so that the amniotic sac can be drained from the uterus and the doctor can complete the abortion with a procedure similar to that of a D&E abortion. 

What are the side effects and risks of surgical abortions?

Like medical abortions, surgical abortions can come with serious mental and physical risks and side-effects.  Some risks and side effects to consider when making this decision include injury and perforation of internal organs, hemorrhaging, infection, future pregnancy complications, and in serious cases, death. Like with medication abortions, many women experience trauma and mental health issues as a result of their abortions. 

Considering Abortion?

Before you consider an abortion, you’ll want to schedule an appointment to confirm your pregnancy with a lab-quality pregnancy test. This test will provide you with the most accurate results and ensure your body is still producing pregnancy hormones. 

Following a positive pregnancy test, an ultrasound is recommended and even required in some states. This scan will give you valuable insight into your pregnancy — revealing the age, location, and viability of your pregnancy. This information is vital regardless of which option you’re considering.

While most clinics will charge you additional fees for your pregnancy test and ultrasound, Mosaic Health is here to help you by providing quality healthcare at no cost to you! Contact us to schedule your free and confidential appointment today.


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