In the United States, abortion is safe and legal. One in four women in the US has an abortion by the age of 45. We provide some basic information on abortion below. Your provider can provide additional details on abortion and can assist in answering any question you may have prior to your procedure. Women for Women can provide financial assistance to Wyoming residents seeking an abortion.
An induced abortion is when a pregnancy is ended intentionally. Most abortions are performed within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy (measured from the date of your last period). The following information is regarding abortions performed within 16 weeks of pregnancy; abortions performed later than 16 weeks may require different procedures.
An abortion can be performed in an office or clinic. There are two types of procedures: medical abortion and surgical abortion. Before either type of procedure, several tests will be performed. The pregnancy will be confirmed and an accurate gestational time will be determined using an ultrasound. A blood test will be drawn. Often, STI testing will be performed and contraception options will be discussed.
A medical abortion, also called a medication abortion and colloquially referred to as the “abortion pill”, is induced by taking a course of medication. It can be performed up to 10 weeks after first day of the last menstrual period. The most common course of medication uses a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol, as well as antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection. The combination of these medications stop the fetus from developing and induces the uterus to contract and empty. Most women describe the experience of medication abortion as feeling like a bad menstrual period with strong cramps. Women may experience fever, chills, diarrhea or nausea, as well. The pregnancy will be expelled from the uterus in 4 to 6 hours, after which the pain and cramping usually improve. Bleeding may continue for up to two weeks, and spotting may continue for several weeks. The pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), or heating pads.
Medical abortion is highly effective, but in rare cases (about 3% of the time) the abortion fails to complete. In these cases, a surgical abortion procedure is required to ensure the pregnancy is completely expelled and avoid any further complications.
For a surgical abortion, sometimes callsed an “in-clinic” abortion, a physician will perform a procedure in which the contents of the uterus are removed through the cervix by suction. Similar to a pelvic exam, you will recline on an exam table and place your feet in stirrups. A speculum will be used to visualize the cervix at the end of the vaginal canal. A local anesthetic will be injected into the cervix to numb it. Once numbed, the opening of the cervix will be dilated (made larger) and a tube or the tip of a syringe will be inserted into the cervix. Suction will be applied and the contents of the uterus will be expelled. The procedure usually lasts 5 to 20 minutes. Typically, the longer the length of gestation, the longer and more uncomfortable the procedure. The discomfort during the procedure is usually described as similar to severe menstrual cramping. Pain may be managed with pain pills. Sedation may also be used and requires the placement of an IV. After the procedure, you will be closely monitored for at least 30 minutes. Bleeding (similar to a period) may continue for a few days and spotting may last a few weeks. Cramping and pain may last a few hours after the procedure and typically will be managed with ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or a heating pad.
After an Abortion
To reduce the risk of infection, nothing should enter the vagina for two weeks after an abortion. This includes avoiding the use of tampons, intercourse, or douching. Post-procedure follow-up appointments are important to verify the success of the procedure. Your first normal period should return within 6 weeks of the procedure. Do not take a pregnancy test within 6 weeks of the procedure as it will not be accurate.
Although rare, be sure to contact the clinic or office that performed your procedure if you experience any of these things:
- excessive bleeding (soaking 1 regular menstrual pad in an hour) that lasts for two hours or more
- a fever greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- excessive pain
- foul smelling discharge from the vagina.
Also notify your provider if symptoms of pregnancy such as breast tenderness or morning sickness persist or your period has not returned within 6 weeks of the procedure.
Many providers also offer birth control services that can help to prevent future unintended pregnancies. Ask your provider about the options they offer and which may be best for you. Many providers can provide effective, long term birth control options at a discounted or free rate for those in need of financial assistance.