Medical and Surgical Abortions

Primarily there are two kinds of abortion methods, namely medical abortion and surgical abortion, which are used around the world. The use of either depends on the duration of pregnancy.

Medical Abortion
A medical abortion is one that is brought about by taking medications that will end a pregnancy. Either of two medications, mifepristone or methotrexate, could be used for a medical abortion. Each of these medications is taken together with another medication, misoprostol, to induce an abortion.

Some other details and questions with regard to medical abortions are:

When Is Medical Abortion Used?
Medical abortions can be performed as early as a pregnancy can be confirmed. In fact, the shorter the time that a woman has been pregnant, the better the medications will work. They typically do not work as well later in the first trimester of pregnancy.

How Long Do Medical Abortions Take?
It could take anywhere from about a day to 3-4 weeks from the time a woman takes the first medication until the medical abortion is completed. The length of time depends in part on which medications are taken.

During and After a Medical Abortion
Some women will have vaginal bleeding after taking the first drug. This bleeding may be light, or it may be like a heavy period. In addition to cramps and bleeding, temporary side effects may include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, or fatigue.

Follow-Up Care
Undergoing a medical abortion requires a follow-up visit to the clinic or medical office where the procedure was performed. This return visit is very important to be sure that the abortion has been completed and there is no residual infection. In addition, a woman should contact her health care provider about any problems or concerns she has during the medical abortion.

The other method of abortion is called surgical abortion.

What is Surgical Abortion?
An abortion of this kind involves the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in, or caused by, its death. This can occur spontaneously as a miscarriage, or be artificially induced through chemical, surgical or other means.

Medical Facts Regarding this Procedure

  • Surgical abortions usually involve an outpatient visit to a doctor’s office or clinic. After the pregnancy is confirmed, the procedure removes an embryo or fetus from the uterus before maturity.
  • Almost 90 percent of all abortions are performed in the first trimester (less than 12 to 15 weeks). 55 percent of abortions are performed in the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
  • The woman may experience some discomfort during and just after the abortion procedure, most commonly a cramping feeling.
  • The mortality rate for women undergoing abortion is very low – less than one death for every 100,000 abortions.

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