Medical abortion is also known as the abortion pill, RU486, or chemical abortion. This method uses drugs to terminate an early pregnancy.
The FDA approved medical abortions to end a pregnancy through 70 days gestation (70 days or less since the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period).
The Abortion Pill
The abortion pill method uses two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, to terminate a pregnancy. The process takes roughly 24 to 48 hours, but you can continue bleeding for up to three weeks.
The first drug, mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy hormone progesterone. All pregnancies need progesterone to grow and thrive. Without it, the pregnancy cannot survive.
According to the FDA, women should not take mifepristone if they have certain conditions:
- An ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside of the uterus)
- Problems with the adrenal glands (the glands near the kidneys)
- Currently being treated with long-term corticosteroid therapy (medications)
- Allergic reaction to mifepristone, misoprostol, or similar drugs
- Bleeding problems or is taking anticoagulant (blood thinning) drug products
- Has an intrauterine device (IUD) in place (it must be removed before taking Mifeprex).
Misoprostol, also known as Cytotec, the second drug, causes uterine contractions to expel the pregnancy through the vagina.
The surgical abortion procedure is determined by how far along you are in your pregnancy.
A vacuum or suction aspiration can be performed up to 13 weeks gestation. Most early surgical terminations are performed using this method.
Local anesthesia is not routinely offered but can be done at an additional cost to reduce pain. The abortion involves opening the cervix, passing a tube inside the uterus, and attaching it to a suction device that pulls the embryo out.
Dilation and curettage (D & C) is performed on later pregnancies. Most second-trimester abortions are performed using this method.
Local anesthesia, oral or intravenous pain medications, and sedation are not routinely offered but can be done at an additional cost to reduce pain. Besides the need to open the cervix wider, the main difference between this procedure and a first-trimester abortion is the use of a curette or scraping tool.
D & C is associated with a much higher risk of complications than a first-trimester surgical abortion.
Dilation and evacuation (D & E) is performed after 24 weeks of gestation. This procedure typically takes 2–3 days and is associated with increased risk to the life and health of the mother.
General anesthesia is usually recommended, if available. Drugs may be injected into the fetus or the amniotic fluid to stop the baby’s heart before starting the procedure.
The cervix is opened wide, the amniotic sac is broken, and forceps are used to dismember the fetus. The “Intact D&E” pulls the fetus out legs first, then crushes the skull to remove the fetus in one piece.