Common Abortion Procedures

RU486, Mifepristone: within 70 Days (10 Weeks) of LMP
The FDA has approved this type of procedure to be a two-visit process using two different drugs. Mifepristone, the first drug, is given orally at the first visit. This drug blocks hormones that keep the pregnancy healthy, thereby ending the life of the developing embryo (baby). The second drug, Misprostol, is taken 48 hours later. This drug will cause contractions and expel the contents of the uterus. This can occur within hours or may take up to two weeks. The second visit is 7-14 days after the first one to ensure the abortion is complete and that there are no immediate complications. Some women who have selected this procedure complained of severe pain/cramping, vomiting, and heavy bleeding lasting weeks. 

Vacuum Aspiration: within 16 weeks after LMP
This is a surgical abortion typically done at an abortion clinic. The cervical muscle is stretched with dilators (metal rods) until the opening is wide enough to allow the abortion instruments to pass into the uterus. A medical instrument called a cannula is inserted into the uterus and the fetus, along with the placenta, is suctioned out. This procedure typically lasts about 10-15 minutes. Recovery may require up to 5 hours. Length of procedure and medical tools required vary depending on how far along in the pregnancy it is. Complaints from this procedure vary greatly due to many factors. 

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): within 17 to 24 weeks after LMP
This surgical abortion is done during the second trimester of pregnancy. Because the developing fetus doubles in size between the thirteenth and fourteenth weeks of pregnancy, the body of the fetus is too large to be broken up by suction and will not pass through the suction tubing. In this procedure, the cervix must be opened wider than in a first trimester abortion. This is done by inserting laminaria a day or two before the abortion. After opening the cervix, the doctor pulls out the fetal parts with forceps. Late-term abortion procedures become increasingly more complex and have more risks as a result.

Induction: from 25 weeks after LMP to full-term
This procedure can take days and is considered controversial. This procedure is not legal everywhere as laws vary from State to State. At 25 weeks the fetus (baby) is now almost fully developed and with some medical care, capable of living outside of the womb. For this reason, the abortionist will usually need to end the baby's life prior to completing the procedure. This is typically done by injecting medicine (digoxin) into the baby's heart while it is still in the womb causing it to die. Then the abortionist will induce labor so the woman can deliver the deceased baby.

Immediate Risks of Abortion

Heavy Bleeding - Some bleeding after abortion is normal. There is, however, a risk of hemorrhage, especially if the uterine artery is torn. When this happens, a blood transfusion may be required.

Infection - Bacteria may get into the uterus from an incomplete abortion resulting in infection. A serious infection may lead to persistent fever over several days and extended hospitalization.

Incomplete Abortion - Some fetal parts may not be removed by the abortion. Bleeding and infection may occur. 

Allergic Reaction to Drugs - An allergic reaction to anesthesia used during abortion surgery may result in convulsions, heart attack and, in extreme cases, death.

Tearing of the Cervix - The cervix may be cut or torn by abortion instruments.

Scarring of the Uterine Lining - Suction tubing, curettes, and other abortion instruments may cause permanent scarring of the uterine lining.

Perforation of the Uterus - The uterus may be punctured or torn by abortion instruments. The risk of this complication increases with the length of the pregnancy. If this occurs, major surgery, including a hysterectomy, may be required.

Damage to Internal Organs - When the uterus is punctured or torn, there is also a risk that damage will occur to nearby organs such as the bowel and bladder.

Death - In extreme cases, other physical complications from abortion including excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage from a perforated uterus, and adverse reactions to anesthesia may lead to death. This complication is very rare and occurs, on average, in less than 20 cases per year.

Other Risks of Abortion

Abortion and Breast Cancer - Medical experts are still researching and debating the linkage between abortion and breast cancer. However, a 1994 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found: "Among women who had been pregnant at least once, the risk of breast cancer in those who had experienced an induced abortion was 50% higher than among other women." 

Effect on Future Pregnancy - Scarring or other injury during an abortion may prevent or place at risk future wanted pregnancies. 

Emotional Impact - Some women experience strong negative emotions after abortion. Sometimes this occurs within days and sometimes it happens after many years. This psychological response is known as Post-Abortion Stress (PAS) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Several factors that impact the likelihood of Post-Abortion Stress include: the woman's age, the abortion circumstances, the stage of pregnancy at which the abortion occurs, and the woman's religious beliefs.

Post-Abortion Stress Symptoms

  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Anniversary Grief
  • Flashbacks of Abortion
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Relationship Problems
  • Eating Disorders
  • Alcohol and Drug Abuse
  • Psychological Reactions

 

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