Abortion is a controversial, but surprisingly little known topic among many women today. It is, however, good to know about the basics of abortion, as well as the processes involved in it. After all, it may not be on your mind now, but in the future, the need may arise when you just might need to get one. Despite it’s bad rap in some cultures, sometimes an abortion could save your life.
To help you understand this topic, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the abortion process, as well as a few different abortion methods. Do note that you will have to discuss with your health care provider if you’re thinking about having an abortion, or are curious about one of the methods of abortion.
Most importantly, if you do get one, make sure you get your information and the procedure from health care professionals that are licensed to perform this procedure.
15 The Basics
First things first: abortion is simply the termination of a pregnancy. Generally, there are two types, spontaneous and induced.
A spontaneous abortion, which we’ll discuss briefly in a minute, is one that is not intended. It is often called a miscarriage when it occurs before the fetus is viable, and a stillbirth when it is after the fetus is viable.
An induced abortion is one that is intended. This can be done through several methods, although the ones that are the safest are those carried out by health care professionals
14 On Spontaneous Abortion
A spontaneous abortion can be particularly devastating for a woman. This is because in this case, the pregnancy was actually wanted or accepted by the mother.
A miscarriage often occurs within the first 23 weeks of a pregnancy, characterized by uterine cramps and vaginal bleeding. A stillbirth often involves other complications, often involving the umbilical cord and amniotic fluid. If you want to avoid a spontaneous abortion, it’s best to read up on the things that can increase your risk for it.
13 Reasons to Get One
Induced abortions, on the other hand, can be sought after by a woman for several different reasons, although the root is usually that pregnancy is either unwanted or has become a danger to the mother.
A woman can opt for an abortion if she does not want children, is unable to afford children at the moment or gets pregnant as a result of rape. In some cases, prenatal testing may show that the child has birth defects, perhaps one that is not even survivable outside the mother’s womb. In yet others, continuing the pregnancy would cost the mother her life.
12 Stigma and Legality
In some places, having an abortion still carries a social stigma. Many still debate on the moral dimension of abortion, as to whether it is considered “baby murder” or whether society should interfere with a woman’s right to continue or terminate a pregnancy. We won’t discuss moral arguments here, since it is really up to you whether to opt for one or not.
Still, it’s important to note, firstly, the legality of the procedure in your area. In places where it is legal, you will have access to medical professionals who conduct the procedure in controlled environments with low risk. On the other hand, in places where it is not legal, abortion clinics may not be as safe, especially when the provider has no medical background.
11 Physical Preparedness
If you decide on going through an abortion, your provider will have to make a thorough assessment, as well as run a few tests to check your risk for any complications. Your provider might confirm your pregnancy through a pregnancy test, as well as conduct a pelvic exam.
You may also have to do a blood test, a urine test and others that will help determine your general health.
10 Emotional Preparedness
Some women have a pragmatic view on abortion, and just handle it as it is. To some women, getting an abortion can be emotionally terrifying. This is especially if the woman is still young, was raped, is late into her pregnancy or has to terminate the pregnancy due to a medical condition.
Because of this, many health care providers recommend going through counselling before getting an abortion. Many family planning clinics offer this service, but your health care provider may be able to recommend someone who can help you make the decision.
9 Weighing Your Options
Generally, the earlier you opt for an abortion, the more options you have as to the methods. Chances are, it will also be less traumatic for you. However, this may not be feasible for all women as, sometimes, some women who want to have an abortion early on do not have access to the services until late into the pregnancy. In addition, some birth defects that may warrant an abortion are detectable only by the second trimester.
There are two general abortion methods: medical and surgical. Medical abortion methods are pretty straightforward and are generally used during the first trimester. We will, however, discuss induction abortion separately, as this one has special features. Each surgical abortion, however, is different and we’ll discuss these in a bit of detail.
8 Medical Abortion
A medical abortion is done by the use of a drug that dilates the cervix, which may trigger uterine contractions and expel the fetus. Usually, this involves the insertion of a synthetic prostaglandin into the vagina in combination with other drugs that trigger uterine contractions or prevent the placenta from developing further.
This will result in vaginal bleeding that may last for two weeks or more. Many women opt for this type of abortion as it is noninvasive. However, medical abortion is not recommended beyond the first trimester.
7 Dilation and Curettage
D & C is a procedure that can be done during the first or the second trimester. The process is pretty much as its name implies. Your provider will first dilate your cervix and then scrape the uterine contents with an instrument called a curette. After this, everything is then suctioned out through a machine.
This procedure is also done to treat other conditions such as miscarriages, postpartum bleeding and fibroid tumors.
6 Manual Vacuum Aspiration
MVA is another abortion procedure which can be performed during the first trimester only. This is a bit less traumatic than a D & C in that it only uses a manual vacuum, which looks much like a syringe, to suck out the uterine contents. The doctor will probably not scrape your uterine lining in this procedure.
It’s pretty straightforward and is recommended primarily for early pregnancy abortions.
5 Dilation and Evacuation
Dilation and evacuation is another procedure that is done in the second trimester of pregnancy. In this case, your cervix will be dilated as with the D & C. Your provider will then use surgical instruments to evacuate the fetus from your uterus. A suction machine may then be used to clear everything up.
This may sound a lot like the D & C, but it’s a bit more complicated as the fetus is usually more developed by the second trimester.
4 Induction Abortion
An induction abortion is a medical abortion method that is special in that it can be used in the second and third trimester. As the name implies, it pretty much uses similar methods as with induction of labor. Prostaglandins may also be applied to the cervix, and a synthetic oxytocin may be injected to stimulate uterine contractions.
This is commonly used in second or third trimester fetuses that have birth defects.
3 Dilation and Extraction
Dilation and extraction is different from D & C and dilation and evacuation in that it is done in a way that the fetus will be taken from the uterus intact. This also involves regular dilation methods, after which certain medications will be injected into the amniotic fluid before the baby is extracted.
This procedure is typically done with third trimester pregnancies.
Your recovery will depend on the type of abortion you have opted for. First trimester medical abortions usually low-maintenance, requiring you to only monitor vaginal bleeding. With surgical abortions, however, you may likely need to take antibiotics and pain-relieving medications.
Make sure to monitor yourself closely for any signs of infection or hemorrhage. You will have to watch out for severe vaginal bleeding, especially if they come with large blood clots. If you develop a fever or your tummy suddenly swells and becomes irritated, you may also need to call your doctor. Do note that in places where abortion is legal and supervised by medical teams, the risks of abortion are relatively low.
1 Future Pregnancies
One question that many women opting for abortion have is whether they will be able to have pregnancies in the future. After all, you may not want a baby now, but there is always a possibility that that will change later on.
The answer is that if the procedure went without any complications, you’ll probably be able to get pregnant in the future. In fact, you will want to, take birth control as soon as it’s medically safe for you to have sex. You certainly don’t want to end one pregnancy only to have another one creeping up on you!
If, however, there were complications during the abortion, especially if you developed an infection afterwards, your chances of getting pregnant in the future may drop. It is best to be evaluated by your doctor.