What is an abortion?
An abortion is a way to end a pregnancy because a girl or woman doesn't want to have a baby. There are a few different ways to do an abortion, depending on how far along the pregnancy is. back to top
What are some reasons that a person might have an abortion?
The most common reason for an abortion is that the pregnant girl or woman doesn't want to have a baby. Other, less common, reasons might be that the fetus isn't developing correctly (for example, it might have Down syndrome
) or the pregnant girl or woman might have health problems that make pregnancy very dangerous to her health. back to top
Who can I talk to if I decide to get an abortion?
Getting an abortion is a big life decision. If you are thinking about having an abortion, you will benefit from talking to someone about it. A trained medical counselor is a good person to hear your concerns and thoughts. Some girls and women feel very sad after having an abortion and really need a supportive adult to help them sort out their feelings. A doctor or another health professional can recommend a counselor to help you deal emotionally with the decision. back to top
What happens during a first trimester abortion?
More than 95% of abortions are done in the first trimester
, which is the 6th through 12th week of pregnancy, or 4 to 8 weeks after conception
. An abortion done during the first trimester is a simpler medical procedure than one done later in a pregnancy.
The person having the abortion lies on an examining table with her legs in stirrups
, just like she would for a pelvic exam
. The doctor examines her, especially the size and shape of her uterus
, to see how far along the pregnancy is. The doctor inserts an intravenous (IV) tube
into the arm or hand of the person having the abortion. The tube is hooked up to a medication that will go into the bloodstream to help the person relax. It may make her feel sleepy and will help to take away any pain she might have.
The doctor then places a speculum
in her vagina
to see her cervix
better and injects a local anesthetic
in and around the cervix. A special instrument is put on the cervix to hold it in place so it doesn't move around. The doctor uses other special instruments to slowly dilate (open) the cervix. After the cervix is opened, a plastic tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The tube is connected to a vacuum suction machine. Using the suction, the doctor removes all the pregnancy tissue from the uterus. The machine makes a lot of noise while it's working, but the process usually takes just a minute or two. The suction may cause some cramping while it is going on, but the person shouldn't feel much else because of the local anesthesia around the cervix and the IV medication.
Once the suction is done, the procedure is over. The doctor will remove the special instruments from the cervix and the speculum. From start to finish, the entire process takes about 10 minutes. back to top
How long does it take to feel better after an abortion?
After the procedure, the person will be taken to a recovery room
where the IV medicine will start to wear off. In the recovery room, she might feel a bit light-headed, dizzy, and sleepy for an hour or so. While she's there, a nurse will check to see that she is having a normal amount of vaginal bleeding. When she feels up to it, she can go home.
If the person getting the abortion has a blood type that's Rh-negative (such as A negative or AB negative), she must get a shot of Rhogam (a substance the keeps the person's body from developing antibodies to a fetus that has Rh-positive blood) before she leaves the clinic or hospital. This is very important, because girls and women with Rh-negative blood can have problems with future pregnancies. Getting the Rhogam shot will help to ensure healthy future pregnancies. That is why a doctor will always check a person's blood type before an abortion. back to top
What happens during a second trimester abortion?
Abortions done in the 13th through the 24th week of pregnancy are called second trimester
abortions. They are more difficult for the doctor to do and they can cause more problems for the person having the abortion. If someone decides to get an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy, she needs to find a doctor who is very experienced in late abortions. She could ask her health professional to recommend someone, or she could go to a hospital clinic or call a woman's clinic to find such a doctor. An experienced doctor can perform a suction abortion up to the 18th or 20th week of pregnancy or later.
Many doctors recommend procedures other than a suction abortion for second trimester abortions. One method is to give the pregnant girl or woman a special medication to cause contractions of the uterus, so the pregnancy will be forced out. back to top
Does a person have to go to a hospital for an abortion?
Most first trimester abortions can be performed at a clinic
that is specially set up to handle these kinds of surgical procedures. But girls or women who have serious medical conditions like epilepsy
should have the abortion done in a hospital.
Some second trimester abortions can also be done in a clinic. After the 18th week, they should be done in a hospital. back to top
What happens after the abortion?
After someone has an abortion, she will probably have some bleeding and cramping for a few days to 2 weeks after the abortion. If she bleeds a lot, has severe lower belly pain, or a fever, she should call her health professional right away. If that happens, she could have an infection or a small bit of tissue may still be in her uterus.
The day after the abortion, most people can go back to their normal activities. The only thing that a person who had an abortion must do differently is to avoid putting anything in her vagina
, because her cervix
remains open, making it easier to get an infection. That means she shouldn't use tampons
, take a tub bath, or have sexual intercourse for 2 weeks, until she gets a check-up with her health professional.
The doctor will want to see the person who had an abortion 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure. The doctor will do a pelvic exam
to make sure that the bleeding has stopped, the cervix
has closed, and the uterus has returned to its normal size. When everything is fine, she will be able to have sexual intercourse again. back to top
Does a person need to use birth control after an abortion?
Most girls will ovulate
two to four weeks after an abortion. That means that she must use birth control right away. If she is planning to start birth control pills
, she can start on the first Sunday after the abortion.
But she must remember that she is not protected against pregnancy for the first month that she uses birth control pills. She has to use an extra method of birth control, like a condom, during that first month. back to top
What are the risks of an abortion?
An abortion is a surgical procedure, and, like all surgical procedures, it has risks. The most common risk of abortion is infection. Most doctors prescribe antibiotics
before and after the abortion to lower the risk of infection.
There is always a small chance that some of the pregnancy tissue will be left behind after the abortion. If that happens, an infection can develop. If the person who had an abortion gets a fever or belly pain, she should see her health professional right away to be sure that she doesn't have an infection. If she does have one, an ultrasound
will be done to check for any tissue that may have been left behind. If a lot of tissue was left behind, she may have to have another procedure.
If she gets an infection, the doctor will give her antibiotics to cure it. If she has a very serious infection, she may need to go to the hospital for a few days to receive antibiotics through an IV
During an abortion, there is always a chance that the doctor could poke a hole in the wall of the uterus
with the instruments. This isn't common, but it can happen. If it does happen, the doctor will want to keep a close watch on the person who had the abortion for signs of internal bleeding. If there is any chance of internal bleeding or that nearby organs (such as the bladder
) were injured, the person may need surgery to repair the injury. back to top