What Happens During an Abortion
There are two most common and very safe procedures for terminating a pregnancy: medication abortion, which involves taking pills, and procedural abortion, which involves a clinician using techniques such as suction to empty your uterus. The choice of method is entirely personal.
Before an Abortion
You must complete paperwork, including medical history, before an abortion. Your clinic may perform an ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy stage, a pregnancy test, or some other lab tests to look for anemia and blood type. A healthcare professional will discuss your options with you and explain each available abortion method and its benefits and risks. You will sign abortion consent forms. Once the procedure is completed, the healthcare professional may discuss birth control options with you.
During this assessment, you may:
- Discuss your reasons for considering abortion and whether you are sure of your decision.
- Speak with a trained counselor if you believe it would be beneficial.
- Speak with a nurse or doctor about the various abortion methods available, including any risks and complications.
- Be offered an ultrasound scan to determine how many weeks pregnant you are.
- Other tests, such as a blood test, may be required depending on your health conditions or the stage of your pregnancy.
When you are sure you want an abortion, you will be asked to sign a consent form, and the clinic or hospital will schedule the procedure. You can change your mind at any time before the abortion begins.
Methods of Abortion
Abortion is classified into two types: Abortion for medical reasons (taking medicine to end the pregnancy) and Abortion through surgery (a procedure to remove the pregnancy).
Abortions can be performed medically or surgically up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. When possible, you should be given the option of selecting your preferred method.
1. Medical Abortion
Medical abortion usually involves two different medications to end the pregnancy. The hospital or clinic prescribes the medicines, typically taken one or two days apart. The pregnancy is expelled through the vagina. This usually occurs several hours after you take the second medication. It does not require surgery or anesthesia. It consists of the following steps:
- First, you take a tablet containing the medication mifepristone, which blocks the main pregnancy hormone. You take this tablet at a hospital or clinic, and then you can go home and resume your normal activities.
- You usually take a second medicine called misoprostol 1 to 2 days later. The tablets are placed under your tongue, between your cheek and gum. If you are less than 10 weeks pregnant, you can usually take medicine at home and if you are more than 10 weeks pregnant, you must take these tablets at a clinic or hospital.
- The womb’s lining breaks down within 4 to 6 hours of taking the second medicine, resulting in pain, bleeding, and pregnancy loss.
2. Surgical Abortion
Surgical abortion involves removing the pregnancy from the womb. It could be done with:
- Local Anesthetic
- Conscious Sedation
- Deep Sedation
You will be given medicine to open the cervix before having a surgical abortion. Depending on the medication, this occurs a few hours or 1 to 2 days before the operation. Your circumstances determine the type of anesthesia or sedation you receive, the number of weeks pregnant you are, and your personal preferences.
After an Abortion
After a surgical or medical abortion in a hospital, you usually do not need any additional tests or appointments. If you have a medical abortion, you may experience temporary side effects such as diarrhea and feel sick.
All types of abortions are likely to cause stomach cramps and vaginal bleeding. Typically, bleeding lasts a week or two. Light vaginal bleeding can last up to a month after a medical abortion.
After an abortion, you can:
- Take pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease pain or discomfort.
- Use sanitary towels or pads instead of tampons until the bleeding has stopped,
- Switch to normal activities as soon as you feel comfortable, including taking a bath or shower.
Get Medical Help
You can get medical help if you have pain or bleeding for several days, still, feel pregnant after about a week, have a fever, flu-like symptoms, or have unusual vaginal discharge.