Methods and Procedures to Terminate a Pregnancy
🏥 Abortion Methods: what do I need to know? — Take the Self-Evaluation
- The five most common methods of abortion are medical abortion (abortion pill), vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage (D&C), dilation and evacuation (D&E), and induction.
- Other abortion methods include caesarean section, hysterectomy, D&X, and instillation (saline) abortion.
- While chemical and induction abortions are performed by taking medication, all other abortion methods require surgery.
- The choice of method depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy.
This article provides an overview of abortion methods, how they compare, and what steps need to be taken to have a termination.
Abortion Methods: "What do I need to know?" — Your Self-Evaluation
Are you facing a difficult question about which abortion method you would use? Answer three multiple-choice questions about your situation and receive a professional evaluation within seconds on your screen.
Getting an Abortion — The 10 Main Steps
How does an abortion work, and what are the preliminary steps?
- Verify pregnancy via a home pregnancy test (or at the doctor’s office or pregnancy center).
- Make an appointment with your gynecologist, midwife, or ob/GYN to confirm your pregnancy and calculate how far along you are. Find out how soon to see you doctor ➡️ HERE.
- Know how much time you have: After researching your region's abortion laws, you can calculate how much time you have left to decide. Looking back, most women are glad to have slowed down at this point in order to make a good decision. By doing so, you can sort through your thoughts and emotions and weigh the pros and cons of abortion.
- Stay connected: Seek support from a caring person to talk things through with. Whom should you tell about the pregnancy (e.g., the father)? Who has your best interest in mind and would provide you with sound counsel? Who could give you support?
- Receive counsel: It can be beneficial to receive experienced, neutral counsel. Get as much advice and support as you need to widen your perspective. Navigate through your options by taking the Solutions Finder Test.
- Mandatory waiting periods, which require women to wait 18 to 72 hours between counseling and getting an abortion, are in effect in 16 European countries and 18 US states. Go to Wait Times for an Abortion to read more.
- Preliminary appointment: Many abortion facilities require a preliminary appointment to discuss the procedure, anesthesia, risk factors, and anything else pertaining to the abortion. You may have blood drawn and/or get an ultrasound.
Before the abortion appointment: Take time after the consultation to let the doctor’s information sink in and listen to your gut instinct. Perhaps each of the previous steps happened very quickly, and now you start discerning thoughts and emotions that you would still like to consider. If you don't feel absolutely sure about your decision, reflect on your persuasions and passions until you discern a clear way forward. It is essential to know that you have the freedom to make a last-minute cancellation or postpone your appointment.
- The abortion procedure. Read here about how the different methods compare.
After the abortion and a time of recovery, the following weeks and months will look different for every woman. Each woman processes an abortion differently. Read more about post-abortion experiences by going to Abortion Stories.
Abortion: yes or no?
Unbiased Coaching for Your Decision
Am I Pregnant?
Analyze Your Symptoms
Having an Abortion: Types of Abortion
Six abortion methods are most commonly practiced worldwide. The first four are surgical procedures; the last two methods are based on taking medication.
- Vacuum Aspiration / Suction Abortion: Surgical procedure using a suction implement under general or local anesthesia or sedation. It is used between the fifth and 16th week of pregnancy, calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). 52% of all abortions are vacuum aspirations.
- Dilation and Curettage (D&C): Surgical procedure using a curette under general anesthesia (or rarely under local anesthesia). Used between the 5th and the 16th week of pregnancy (LMP). D&C abortions account for 1.7% of all abortions
- Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): Surgical procedure using vacuum aspiration, D&C, and forceps while under general anesthesia. Used in the second trimester (between week 10 and 20). 94-98% of second-trimester abortions are performed via D&E.
- Dilation and Extraction (D&X): Surgical procedure under general anesthesia. The fetus is delivered in the breech position using forceps. It can be performed in the second and third trimesters but is rarely used.
- Induction Abortion: Medications are used to start the labor and delivery. This usually requires a two to three-day hospital stay. This method is used after the 16th week of pregnancy.
- Abortion Pill (chemical abortion/medical abortion): Abortion by taking medication. This method is used in the first trimester. Over 50% of US abortions are medical. Most other countries have lower numbers.
For more detailed information about the procedure of each method, how they work, and when they are used, go to:
- Vacuum Aspiration
- Dilation & Curettage (D&C)
- Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)
- Intact Dilation and Extraction (D&X)
- Induction Abortion
- The Abortion Pill
How Do the Different Types of Abortion Compare?
The different abortion procedures can be compared in several aspects:
- 💉 Anesthesia: While general or local anesthesia is used in surgical methods, one is fully awake and conscious throughout the process of a medical abortion.
- ⏱ Duration: Each type of abortion varies in its amount of time. A medical abortion takes several days to complete, whereas a first-trimester surgical abortion only takes 10 to 15 minutes, followed by a surveillance period at the surgery center. A D&E is usually completed in two steps on consecutive days at a clinic, even if the procedure only takes 30 minutes.
- ⏳ Deadline: Some methods are limited to early pregnancy such as the abortion pill (9-19 weeks) or vacuum extractions (1st trimester). For regional deadlines, go to Until When Can I Get an Abortion?
- 💵 Cost: The cost of an abortion varies from country to country, depending on the method of abortion. For more information, go to How Much Does an Abortion Cost?
Find out more about the side effects and risks of the different types of abortion:
🛤 Could an abortion affect me long term? Take the Test
Abortion — Medical or Surgical?
The decision for or against an abortion depends on abortion facts (listed above) as well as personal circumstances. The same is true when deciding between a medical and a surgical abortion.
- Facts about abortion are compiled under: How do the different types of abortion compare?
- The personal circumstances that a woman must reconcile with these factual aspects are always unique. Therefore, it is advisable to focus on these circumstances rather than concentrate solely on objective criteria.
Experiences of Other Women
Experiences with medical and surgical abortions vary.
- Some women think of medical abortion as “easier.” At the same rate, experiencing the entire abortion over the course of several days can be challenging.
- We also hear from women who wake up from the anesthesia after a surgical abortion — when everything is suddenly over — who wished they had had more time to think about their decision.
Where to Go from Here
Hopefully, this page provided you with the information on abortion methods you were seeking. Maybe you are looking beyond technical answers as you deal with the implications of an unintended pregnancy. Perhaps you just found out you are pregnant and are wondering what to do next.
Life probably feels overwhelming and confusing right now. Or maybe you are going through the motions, trying to check off the necessary preparations for an abortion while allowing your feelings as little room as possible. Your lived experience has led you to a situation under which you are considering having an abortion... You probably never intended for this to happen and may still feel unsure about the future.
We encourage you not to keep your fears to yourself but to face them. Then, take a closer look at your options. Perhaps your yearnings are pointing toward a different path.
Will you allow us to walk alongside you as you discover the path that is right for you? Try out these judgment-free resources, which were created to aid you in your decision-making process:
- ⛑ Unplanned pregnancy — Take the First Aid Test
- 💡 Your Greatest Concern — Take the Solutions Finder Test