Which Abortion Methods Are Safe?

When you discover you’re unexpectedly pregnant, you begin to contemplate every scenario you can imagine as you try to figure out what to do next. But no matter how you look at it, it’s scary.

You may have already thought about your options of parenting, adoption, or abortion. As you consider abortion, it’s normal to wonder about which abortion methods are safe.

In reality, there are risks to every procedure you do with your body. This article will help you answer abortion questions, gather facts, weigh the risks and benefits, and determine what is best for you.

How Far Along in My Pregnancy Can I Be?

Medical Abortion

Medical abortions can be performed up to ten weeks from the first day of your last period.

Aspiration Abortion

Aspiration abortions can be performed up to sixteen weeks from the first day of your last period.

D&E Abortion

D&E abortions are performed after sixteen weeks of pregnancy.

How Much Does an Abortion Cost?

The cost of an abortion varies by location, provider, and the abortion method. Typically, a medical abortion is the least expensive, and a D&E abortion costs more than the other two methods.

What Happens During an Abortion?

Medical Abortion

A medical abortion is often called “the abortion pill,” and it’s a regimen of taking multiple pills.

Mifepristone is the first pill, and you take it by mouth at a clinic. The purpose of mifepristone is to block progesterone so that the pregnancy detaches from your uterus. You then take misoprostol, the second medication, by mouth or inserted vaginally at home the next day. Misoprostol expels the pregnancy from your uterus by causing uterine cramping.  You will experience very heavy bleeding and pass large clots.

Many women are not aware that the pregnancy ends at home and are not always certain what to expect. It is critical that you return to the clinic to confirm the abortion was completed and you are infection-free.

If you change your mind after you take mifepristone, but you haven’t taken misoprostol yet, there is a chance you can still have a successful pregnancy through abortion pill reversal

Aspiration Abortion

An aspiration abortion is surgical and occurs at a clinic.

The medical staff will provide you with pain medication and antibiotics before the procedure starts. Sometimes, they also give you medication to open your cervix.

Once you are in the surgical room, they will inject a numbing medication into your cervix to lessen discomfort when they open your cervix with dilating rods. The physician then inserts a tube to suction the pregnancy out of your uterus.

After removing the pregnancy by aspiration (suction), the doctor uses a surgical instrument called a curette to ensure your uterus is empty.

After the abortion, you will be monitored in a recovery area for up to an hour before you can leave the clinic.

D&E Abortion

A surgical abortion for pregnancies after 16 weeks is a D&E abortion.

A couple of days or hours before the abortion, the medical staff will insert absorbent dilator sticks called laminaria or Dilapan in the cervix. These dilators absorb fluid and open up the cervix. You will feel cramping as the cervix dilates.

A doctor will also give an injection into your uterus to stop the fetal heart.

On the day of the abortion procedure, you can request I.V. medication so you will be sedated. The doctor will remove the dilating sticks, place a speculum into your vagina, and inject a numbing medication into the cervix. The D&E abortion is performed with a combination of suction and surgical instruments.

You will rest in the recovery room for monitoring for about two hours afterward.

Is It Painful?

With all abortions, you will feel mild to extreme cramping. The clinic will give you instructions to manage your pain.

What Are the Side Effects?

Medical Abortion

Mifepristone side effects can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Pelvic pain

Misoprostol side effects can include:

  • Cramps
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding/passing large clots
  • Pelvic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills/fever

Surgical Abortions (Aspiration and D&E)

Side effects after aspiration abortion can include:

  • Cramps
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Sweating
  • Faintness

What Are the Risks?

Side effects are manageable. When you wonder about the safety of abortion, you are most likely wondering about risks, which we will discuss here.

Medical Abortion

Many women are under the impression that a medical abortion carries less risk than a surgical abortion. But after a medical abortion, 20% of women experience at least one serious complication according to a Finland study. The reality is a medical abortion can have significant risks that are greater than a surgical abortion.

  • Hemorrhage is the most common complication (15.6%)
  • Incomplete abortion needing a follow-up surgical abortion (6.7-10%)
  • Infection (1.7%)
  • Blood clots
  • An undetected ectopic pregnancy (a medical emergency)
  • Future infertility, miscarriage, pre-term delivery
  • Death

If you have a medical abortion, the follow-up visit afterward is crucial.

Surgical Abortions (Aspiration and D&E)

Risks of surgical abortions include:

  • Infection
  • Tearing of the cervix
  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Bowel or bladder injury
  • Scarring of the uterus
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Future infertility, miscarriage, preterm delivery
  • Post-abortion stress syndrome (PASS)/depression
  • Death

Can an Abortion Affect My Ability to Have Children in the Future?

The short answer is yes, it can. If you contract pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) after an abortion, it can lead to future infertility, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancies. PID is an infection that occurs after an abortion if bacteria is introduced into your reproductive system. To reduce the risk of PID after an abortion, be sure you are treated for sexually transmitted diseases beforehand.

So Which Abortion Methods Are Safe?

Statistically, you have a higher chance of having an abortion without serious physical complications. However, if you are someone who has an abortion complicated by serious risks, statistics won’t matter to you. Over 55% of women who have had one or more abortions have indicated experiencing sadness or loss, so even if there are no physical side effects, the chances of experiencing some kind of emotional side effect is probable. The best advice is to make an informed decision. Talk with experienced advocates. Trust your gut, and do what is best for you.

We Are Here to Help

You can read an informative article like this and still have many questions. At Willowbrook Women’s Center, we understand. Get the answers needed to make a confident decision. Make a no-cost, confidential appointment today!

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