Abortion Methods - How Does an Abortion Work?

Abortion Methods

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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 an abortion.

    Abortion Methods: What do I need to know? – Self-Evaluation

    Wondering what method to choose? Answer three multiple-choice questions about your situation and receive a professional evaluation within seconds on your screen.

    The Process of an Abortion – 10 Steps

    How does an abortion work and what preliminary steps are necessary?

    1. Verify pregnancy via a home pregnancy test (or at the doctor’s office or pregnancy center).
    2. Appointment with your gynecologist, midwife, or ob/GYN: to confirm your pregnancy and calculate how far along you are.
    3. Know how much time you have: After researching your country'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.
    4. Seek out someone kind 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?
    5. Receive counsel: It can be beneficial to receive experienced, neutral counsel. Get as much advice and support as you need to widen your perspective. Feel free to take our Solutions Finder Test.
    6. 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.
    7. 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 given an ultrasound.
    8. Take time for yourself. Consider your thoughts and emotions in order to discern which choice you will feel good about in the long run. It is essential to know that you have the freedom to make a last-minute cancellation or postpone your appointment if you have an inkling that you have yet to think this through sufficiently.
    9. The abortion procedure. Read here about how the different methods compare.
    10. After the abortion take it easy for a few days. The following weeks and months will look different for every woman. While some women feel a sense of relief, others struggle with their decision - immediately or after some time. It may help to speak with someone who has also experienced an abortion or with a professional counselor.

    ⚖️ Are you unsure of how to decide? Take our free Abortion Test! You will receive an immediate evaluation via email.

    What Types of Abortion Are There?

    Five abortion methods are most commonly practiced worldwide. The first three are surgical procedures; the last two options 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 (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 only 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 Mifegene (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:

    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 takes a different 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 ususally completed in two steps on consecutive days at a clinic, even if the procedure only takes 30 minutes.
    • Deadline: Time limits and restrictions vary from country to country.
    • Worldwide, 6% of women live in countries that prohibit abortion, 22% allow for abortion to save the woman’s life, 14% permit abortion on health grounds, 23% permit abortion for socio-economic reasons and 36% allow for abortion upon request.
    • 💵 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:

    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.

    Take time for yourself to order your thoughts before making a decision. All your thoughts, questions and concerns need to be considered and weighed.

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    Where to Go from Here

    You may be looking beyond the technical answers about abortion, as you may be confronted with all 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. Take the time you need to weigh your thoughts, feelings, and concerns before making a decision.

    You are worth more than a quick fix!

    Will you allow us to walk alongside you as you discover the path that is right for you? Try out these judgement-free resources which were created to aid you in your decision-making process:

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    While we strive to provide you with the most up-to-date information possible, profemina is dependent on external sources and, therefore, cannot guarantee the accuracy of the details of this article.


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