Induced pregnancy termination, or abortion, ends a pregnancy with medication or a medical procedure.
Abortions can take place in a doctor’s office, a surgical center or hospital, or at home using medication. In most cases abortion does not affect a woman’s health, nor does it increase the risk of breast cancer, depression or infertility.
In California, the type of abortion you may have depends on several factors, including your health and how far along your pregnancy is. Each abortion experience is different.
If you wish to terminate your pregnancy, seek medical advice as soon as you can. The complexity of abortion care can increase as you get farther along in your pregnancy.
In California, abortion is legal until “viability,” which is the stage of pregnancy at which a fetus has developed enough to be able to survive outside the uterus with medical help. This usually happens around 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy. Nearly 90% of abortions in the U.S. are performed in the first trimester.
Your Hoag doctor will partner with you with respect and support as you make your decision.
A medication abortion is a two-step process. First, you take a medication called mifepristone. This helps to stop a fetus from growing. About 1 to 2 days after the mifepristone, you take a medication called misoprostol. Misoprostol causes cramping and bleeding. This causes the uterus to empty. Your health care professional should explain how to take these medications.
You should be able to request abortion medication from your Hoag doctor.
Medication abortion may cause vaginal bleeding that is much heavier than a menstrual period. The bleeding may be like a miscarriage. There may be severe cramping. There may also be nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.
Your doctor should explain what to expect in terms of pain, bleeding, and passing the pregnancy. You may be offered a prescription for pain medication, or you can take over-the-counter pain medication.
You should also have a follow-up plan with your doctor to be sure that the abortion is complete.
While medication abortions can take place in the second trimester pregnancy, they are more typically done in the first trimester (before 13 weeks).
In the first trimester, a procedural abortion is typically done with vacuum aspiration (also called suction curettage). Abortion with vacuum aspiration is usually offered up to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
To start, a speculum is placed in the vagina to hold it open. A numbing medication may be given to help block sensation in the cervix. The cervix is then dilated (opened) for the procedure. The cervix can be opened with medication or dilators (rods).
A thin, plastic tube is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. The tube is then attached to a suction or vacuum pump, which removes the pregnancy. An instrument called a curette can also be used to remove the pregnancy.
When a suction or vacuum pump is used to remove the pregnancy, it is called vacuum aspiration or suction curettage. When a curette is used, the procedure is called dilation and curettage (D&C). Sometimes the term D&C is used in both situations.
Your doctor should take steps to ensure you are comfortable during the procedure. Pain medication may be recommended but is not always necessary. Antibiotics may be given to help prevent infection.
Most people go home the day of the procedure. It is normal to experience soreness or cramping for a few days afterward. You may be offered a prescription for pain medication, or you can take over-the-counter pain medication. Bleeding and spotting may last for several weeks. This is also normal.
Second Trimester Procedural Abortion
Second-trimester surgical abortions are performed for elective abortion, maternal health conditions, miscarriage management and for pregnancy termination due to fetal anomalies.
These procedural abortions, known as dilation and evacuation (D&E), are typically performed over a two-day period but don’t require an overnight stay in the hospital. In some cases, the procedure can be performed in one day, depending upon the progression of the pregnancy and other factors.
Abortions are safe procedures and should not affect your future health, the health of your future children or your fertility. If you have questions about abortion procedures, please talk to your doctor or another trusted healthcare professional. For community resources about pregnancy termination and family planning click here.