When considering abortion, there are two main types, medical and surgical. The type of abortion recommended varies by situation. Keep reading to learn more about the procedures, eligibility, and risks involved.

Medical Abortion

Medical abortion, also known as the abortion pill, uses two different drugs that work together to terminate a pregnancy. A medical abortion uses mifepristone and misoprostol back to back. 

When an abortion provider approves a woman for a medical abortion, she is usually given the first drug, mifepristone, in the office. Mifepristone blocks the progesterone from reaching the uterus, which ends the pregnancy. Progesterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in the body; during pregnancy, the body uses progesterone to support and grow the embryo.  

A woman takes misoprostol up to 48 hours after taking mifepristone, usually at home. Misoprostol causes the uterus to begin contracting (squeezing), forcing the pregnancy out of the body through the vagina. 

Medical abortion is not recommended in every situation. Some reasons a woman might not be eligible for a medical abortion include the following:

  • The pregnancy is over 10 weeks.
  • The pregnancy is ectopic (growing outside of the uterus.)
  • The woman has a medical history of bleeding disorders.
  • The woman doesn’t have access to emergency care.
  • The woman is unable to attend follow-up visits.

Risks of medical abortion can include the following:

  • Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
  • An ongoing pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Digestive system discomfort

Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion is a procedure that involves a medical provider opening the cervix and using surgical tools and suction to remove the pregnancy from the uterus. The types of tools used in the procedure vary by the method of surgical abortion performed. 

Providers likely terminate pregnancies in the first trimester with vacuum aspiration or dilation and curettage (D&C). Pregnancy in the second trimester is usually removed with dilation and evacuation (D&E). 

Risks of surgical abortions can include:

  • A hole poked through the uterus with a surgical tool
  • Damage to the cervix (the opening of the uterus)
  • Scar tissue in the uterus (may lead to painful periods, miscarriages, or infertility in the future)
  • Infection

When to Seek Medical Help

Since a woman usually recovers at home after medical and surgical abortions, she should be aware of common signs and symptoms of severe complications and reach out to her medical provider with any concerns. Indications of complications can include:

  • Heavy bleeding (soaking two or more pads an hour for two hours)
  • Severe abdominal or back pain
  • Fever lasting more than 24 hours
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

How We Can Help

We want to answer all your questions so you have the information to decide confidently about your pregnancy. Contact us today to schedule a confidential appointment.