Abortion Procedures: What To Expect

By May 23, 2017Abortion

Abortions are not all the same. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may have to undergo a variety of procedures in order to have an abortion. And though some women believe abortion is an easy and painless solution to an unexpected pregnancy, there are real risks involved. Make sure you understand the realities of abortion before you decide.

Below you will find basic information on the different types of abortion procedures as well as when in your pregnancy each type of abortion would be performed.

Abortion Procedure Information

Up to 7 Weeks Pregnant: RU-486 (Abortion Pill)

For women very early in their pregnancy, RU-486 is a common abortion method. Also known as the Abortion Pill, RU-486 is actually a combination of different medications. It is effective at terminating a pregnancy up through the 9th week of pregnancy. The administration of RU-486 requires 2-3 visits to your doctor’s office. On the first visit, you will be given pills to cause the death of your unborn baby. This can result in the expulsion of the embryo as well. If it does not, you will take a second drug at your next visit which causes cramping and uterine expulsion. Finally, you will make a third visit later on to determine if the abortion has completed.

Make sure you understand the realities of abortion before you decide.

You have options. Call 316.945.9400 today.

4 to 13 Weeks Pregnant: Vacuum Aspiration Abortion

For pregnancies early in the first trimester but where the abortion pill may not be useable (such as in the case of a medical allergy), Vacuum Aspiration is another possible abortion method. In Vacuum Aspiration, a doctor will insert a long thin tube called a suction cannula into the uterus. Then he or she will attach it to a manual or electric suction machine to remove the fetus. The doctor will also generally give you an anesthetic to reduce discomfort.

For those toward the end of the first trimester, the doctor will need to open your cervix wider. They can use medications or thin rods made of seaweed inserted into the cervix to soften it and open it. The next day, the doctor may further stretch the cervix with metal rods. Local or general anesthesia is usually given for this. The doctor then inserts a plastic tube into the uterus and uses suction with an electrical or manual suction machine. The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. They often also use a loop-shaped tool called a curette to scrape any remaining fetus and fetal parts out of the uterus. They often refer to these parts as “products of conception.”

13 to 24+ Weeks Pregnant: Dilation and Evacuation

During the second trimester, your cervix must be opened wider because the fetus is larger. The cervix needs to be opened to prevent the surgical instruments and fetal body parts from damaging the patient’s internal organs such as the uterus, cervix, or bladder. The doctor will dilate your cervix by inserting several thin rods made of seaweed into the cervix a day or two before the abortion procedure. Sometimes oral or vaginal medications are used to soften the cervix further.

The day of the procedure, after the doctor gives you anesthesia, he or she will further stretch your cervix using metal rods. Until 16 weeks, he or she will then insert a cannula through the cervical opening and apply suction to pull the fetal body apart and out of the uterus. They will remove the remaining fetal parts with forceps and a curette. After 16 weeks, they will perform most of the procedure with forceps to pull fetal parts out through the cervix. Then a curette or suction machine makes sure the uterus is empty.

After 24 weeks, there is potential for a fetus to be born alive. This requires the doctor to first administer injections of digoxin, potassium chloride, or air to cause fetal death. They will inject the air or medications into the amniotic fluid, umbilical cord, or in the fetus’ heart. Typically they will guide a large needle  into the fetal heart and inject the medication or air to stop the fetus’ heart from beating. The rest of the procedure is the same as for 13 to 24 weeks noted above, unless the doctor performs an “Intact D&E”. This is when the doctor removes the fetus in one piece. Often the doctor will crush the fetus’ skull first because the cervix is not large enough to bring the head out intact.

If you’re considering abortion or you have questions, know that there are other options. Embrace offers free pregnancy testing & limited obstetrical sonograms to assist in your decision as well as counseling & access to community resources. All our services are free, confidential and pressure-free. Call us today with any questions.

The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Embrace is not an emergency center and does not provide abortions or abortion referrals. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.

Dr. Melissa Hague

Dr. Melissa Hague


The content on this page has been approved by one of our board members: Dr. Melissa Hague, OB/GYN.