Abortion is ending a pregnancy using medicine or surgery.
Abortion is one of the most common surgeries in the United States
Abortion is very safe when it’s done by a trained doctor in a medical facility
The earlier an abortion is done in your pregnancy, the easier and safer it is
Abortion is dangerous if it's done by untrained people (for example in an area where abortion is illegal)
You should start birth control right after having an abortion
In the United States, abortion is legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in all states. After 12 weeks, abortion may be illegal or have limits in some states.
There are 2 types of abortion:
In a surgical abortion, the fetus is removed from your uterus through your vagina. You aren't cut open. Usually the doctor puts a suction device through your cervix (the opening to your uterus). A surgical abortion is often called a "D & E."
In a medical abortion, the doctor gives you medicine that makes your uterus contract and push the fetus out.
Before you have an abortion, the doctor will:
Talk to you and examine you to see if you have any medical problems
Explain the abortion procedure
Counsel you about other options you have for your pregnancy
Determine how far along you are in your pregnancy, usually by doing an ultrasound
Do blood tests
After this, you may be able to have your abortion right away. However, some states require a waiting period between your counseling and the abortion. Also, for a surgical abortion, you may need treatment for a day or two to open up your cervix. Whether you need this treatment depends on how far along your pregnancy is.
A surgical abortion is usually done in an office or clinic.
Before starting, the doctor will:
Opening your cervix is called dilation. That's the "D" part of D & E. To open your cervix, your doctor may:
The material the doctor puts in the cervix absorbs water and swells up to open your cervix. Sometimes this works in a few hours, but it may take a day or two.
To do the abortion, the doctor will:
Give you medicine by vein to make you sleepy so you don’t feel the surgery
Inject numbing medicine inside your vagina next to your cervix
Put a small, flexible vacuum tube through your cervix into your uterus to empty your uterus and end your pregnancy
Sometimes scrape the inside of your uterus with a metal instrument to make sure it's empty
Doctors usually do abortion with medicine (pills) only in the first 9 weeks or so of your pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, abortions are more complicated and usually have to be done surgically.
For a medical abortion before you're 9 weeks pregnant, you'll usually:
Sometimes you'll come back to the clinic to take the second medicine.
The medicine causes your uterus to contract (squeeze). You'll have cramping, feel sick to your stomach, and bleed through your vagina as your uterus empties. Usually, your pregnancy ends within 24 to 48 hours of taking the medicine.
Usually you'll go back to see the doctor in about 2 weeks to make sure there's nothing left in your uterus.
Legal abortions done by doctors in medical facilities are very safe.
More women have complications from delivering a baby than from having an abortion. However, you should keep in mind that using birth control is safer than having an abortion.
Serious problems usually occur in the first week after having an abortion. Problems are more likely the further along in pregnancy. Serious problems include:
You should go back to your doctor if you have:
To help avoid infection, you shouldn't have vaginal sex for 2 weeks after an abortion.