Abortion Methods - How Does an Abortion Work?

Abortion Methods

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Methods and Procedures to Terminate a Pregnancy

  • The five most common methods of abortion are: Chemical Abortion (Abortion Pill), Vacuum Aspiration, Dilation and Curettage (D&C), Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) and Dilation and Extraction (D&X).
  • Other abortion methods include labor induction, caesarean section, hysterectomy and instillation (saline) abortion.
  • While chemical abortions are performed by taking a pill, all other abortion methods require surgery.
  • The choice of method depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

This article provides you with an overview of abortion methods, how they compare and what steps need to be taken in order to have an abortion.

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    The Process of an Abortion – 10 Steps

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

    1. Verification of pregnancy via a home pregnancy test (or at the doctor’s office or pregnancy center).
    2. Appointment with your gynecologist, midwife, or ob/gyn: Confirmation of pregnancy and calculation of your week of pregnancy.
    3. Know how much time you have: After researching your country's abortion laws, you will be able to calculate how much time you have left to make a decision. Looking back, most women are glad to have slowed down at this point in order to come to a good decision. By doing so, you can sort though your thoughts and emotions and weigh out the pros and cons of an abortion.
    4. Seek out someone kind to talk things through with. Who should you tell about the pregnancy (e.g., the father)? Who has your best interest in mind and would provide you with good counsel? Who could give you support?
    5. Receive counsel: It can be very helpful to receive experienced, neutral counsel. Get as much advice and support as you need in order to widen your perspective. Feel free to try 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 27 US states.
    7. Preliminary appointment: Most abortion facilities require a preliminary appointment in order 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 own thoughts and emotions in oder to discern which choice you will feel good about in the long run. It is important to know that you have the freedom to make a last minute cancellation or to postpone your appointment, if you have an inkling that you have not thought this through sufficiently.
    9. The abortion procedure. Read here about how the different procedures 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.


    What Types of Abortion Are There?

    There are five abortion methods which are most commonly practiced worldwide. Four of which are surgical procedures, the fifth option is based on taking medication.

    • Vacuum Aspiration / Suction Abortion: Surgical procedure using a suction implement under general or local anesthesia. Used between the fifth and 12th week of pregnancy. 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 4th and the 12th week of pregnancy. 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; IDX; intact D&E) / Induction: Surgical procedure using labor inducing medications. Used in late term abortions (after week 16). This method accounts for 0.17% of all abortions
    • Abortion Pill Mifegene (Chemical Abortion/Medical Abortion): Abortion by taking medication. Used in the first trimester. 39% 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 regard to several aspects:

    • 💉 Anesthesia: While general or local anesthesia are used in the 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 be completed, whereas a first trimester Surgical Abortion only takes 10 to 15 minutes, followed by a period of surveillance at the surgery center. A D&E usually takes two days at a clinic, even if the procedure itself only takes 30 minutes. A D&E is usually performed within one day.
    • Deadline: Time limits and restrictions vary from country to country.
    • Worldwide, 5% of women live in countries that prohibit abortion, 22% allow for abortion to save the women’s life, 14% permit abortion on health grounds, 23% permit abortion for socio economic reasons and 36% allow for abortion upon request. (source: reproducticerights.org)
    • Cost: The cost of an abortion varies from country to country, depending on the method of abortion.

    Find out more about the side effects and risks of the different types of abortion:


    Abortion - Medicinal 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, which a woman has to reconcile with these factual aspects, are always very 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 a medical abortion as “easier.” At the same rate, experiencing the entire abortion over the course of several days can be hard.
    • 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.


    Where to Go From Here

    You may be looking beyond the technical answers about abortion. This is probably a very personal subject to you right now. You may have just found out you are& pregnant and you are wondering what to do next. Everything feels overwhelming and confusing. Take the time you need so that you can 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.



    • UpToDate.com, as of 2021
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