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I'm Pregnant. What are my options?
- Surgical
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ABORTION/Surgical Abortion


Your options for abortion care depend upon how far along the pregnancy is. Keep in mind that procedures vary depending on your provider. Your best source of information is always your provider. The NAF Hotline 1-800-772-9100 can also answer your questions.

Up to 12-14 Weeks (First Trimester)

Within approximately the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy (see How Far Along Am I?), surgical abortions are done using a method called vacuum aspiration or suction curettage.

What to Expect

During a vacuum aspiration, you will lie on an examining table in a clinic or medical office, just as you would for a routine pelvic exam. The provider inserts an instrument called a speculum into the vagina that will hold the vaginal walls apart, and then administers local anesthesia to the cervix. The cervix is a ring of muscles at the opening to the uterus, and it is usually tightly closed. After this, the provider then begins to dilate, or open, the cervix with tapered rods called dilators.

After the cervix is dilated, a narrow tube attached to an aspirator device, either an electric machine or a hand held syringe, is then inserted into the uterus and the contents of the uterus are emptied using suction. (When the hand-held syringe is used, the procedure is sometimes called manual vacuum aspiration or MVA.) The entire procedure usually takes 5 to 15 minutes. Some women experience menstrual-type cramping during the procedure and for up to an hour afterward.

After the Abortion

After a surgical abortion is completed, you should expect to rest in the clinic in a recovery area for a minimum of 30 minutes before you go home. During this time, the staff will make sure your blood pressure and heart rate are stable and that you are not having abnormal bleeding or discomfort. (If you have received certain types of anesthesia, such as conscious sedation or general anesthesia, you should not operate a vehicle, therefore you will need to have a companion take you home. You may also have to remain in the recovery area for longer than 30 minutes.)

Following the abortion, you will receive instructions for post-operative care. This will include a 24-hour number to use if you become concerned about your condition. It is very important that you follow the after-care instructions and take any prescriptions you have been given. Read more about aftercare.

After 14 Weeks (Second Trimester)

After about 14 weeks, procedures are generally provided on an outpatient basis, using dilation and evacuation (D&E). Some providers may provide vacuum aspiration slightly later in pregnancy so this may still be an option. A small percentage of abortions in the second trimester are done by inducing labor with medications. This is called induction abortion. Please call the NAF Hotline with any questions.

What to Expect

D&E is an expansion of the vacuum aspiration described above, but it requires further dilation of the cervix. This may be achieved using sterile absorbent fiber rods called laminaria, which are inserted into the cervix, usually the day before, or using a medication called misoprostol which may be taken orally or put in the vagina, usually a few hours before the abortion.

To perform the abortion, the provider uses suction as in a first trimester abortion and additional instruments to remove the pregnancy and pregnancy tissue. The procedure takes from 10 to 45 minutes. Women may experience varying degrees of discomfort. Several anesthesia options may be available.

After the Abortion

After a D&E, you should expect to rest in the clinic in a recovery area for approximately an hour before you go home. During this time, the staff will make sure your blood pressure and heart rate are stable and that you are not having abnormal bleeding or discomfort. (If you have received certain types of anesthesia, such as conscious sedation or general anesthesia, you should not operate a vehicle, therefore you will need to have a companion take you home.)

Following the abortion you will receive instructions for post-operative care. This will include a 24-hour number to use if you become concerned about your condition, and an appointment or referral for a check up 2-4 weeks later. It is very important that you follow the after-care instructions and take any prescriptions you have been given. Read more about aftercare.

After 24 Weeks

Abortions after 24 weeks are generally available only in order to preserve the health and life of a woman or in cases of severe fetal anomaly. There are very few providers of later abortions and the procedures will vary. If you need information about these providers, please call the NAF Hotline.

Anesthesia

There are several types of anesthesia used for surgical abortion. The clinic will help you determine which type of anesthesia is right for you.

Local anesthesia (Lidocain, Novacain):

Local sedation is usually an injection that numbs a specific or local area of your body. In this case, your cervix will be numbed. Local anesthesia is commonly used in surgical abortions.

Conscious sedation (IV sedation, twilight sleep):

This is medication given through an IV needle that may cause you to feel drowsy or "out of it." Conscious sedation may also affect short-term memory, leaving you with no memory of the procedure. Some people have side effects from conscious sedation, including mild upset stomach or grogginess.

Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas):

Nitrous oxide is a short-term anesthetic inhaled through a mask. It causes you to have feelings of euphoria and drowsiness.

General ( "knocked out" or "put under"):

General anesthesia is a controlled state of unconsciousness and requires monitoring by a qualified anesthesia practitioner. Some people have side effects from general anesthesia, including mild upset stomach or grogginess. General anesthesia is less commonly used in first trimester abortions than other anesthesia options.

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need help? Call the NAF Hotline for non-biased factual information about abortion. 1-800-772-9100

Counting from LMP - When you call a clinic to make an appointment, you will be asked the first day of your last regular period.  This is known as Last Menstrual Period, or LMP. Learn more.

FAQs and Resources - There are a lot of myths surrounding pregnancy, adoption and abortion.  Let these resources help you sort the facts from fiction.
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