What are the Different Types of Abortion?

What are the Different Types of Abortion?


What Are the Different Types of Abortion?

There are two types of abortion, medical and surgical. Which abortion procedure is chosen is determined by the length of the pregnancy, a woman’s medical history, and her ability to access emergency or follow-up care. Medical and surgical abortion differ in the procedures, risks, and recovery.

Medical Abortion

Sometimes called “the abortion pill,” a medical abortion is a process of taking two drugs to terminate a pregnancy. The first drug, mifepristone, blocks the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue. Misoprostol is taken up to 2 days later to induce uterine contractions, which expel the pregnancy from the uterus.

Expected side effects of medical abortion include vaginal bleeding, cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, diarrhea, and headache. 

Risks of medical abortion can include:

  • Incomplete abortion
  • Heavy bleeding that will not stop
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Prolonged diarrhea and digestive pain
  • Allergic reaction to the medications 

Women will need an ultrasound and should share their medical history with their provider before obtaining a medical abortion to determine if it is a safe option for terminating their pregnancy. Medical abortion will not be performed in the following situations:

  • The pregnancy is further than 10 weeks (The drugs used in medical abortion have only been FDA-approved in pregnancies under 10 weeks.)
  • Ectopic pregnancy (a life-threatening condition in which embryo or fetus is located outside of the uterus)
  • Anemia or blood clotting disorder
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) currently in place 
  • No access to emergency or follow-up care. (Follow up care should be one week after taking medication to ensure pregnancy was terminated.)

Surgical Abortion

A surgical abortion is a procedure that takes place in a clinic or hospital. A woman will lie on her back with her feet in stirrups during the procedure, like during a gynecological exam. A local anesthetic is usually inserted into the cervix to numb the area. The provider inserts a series of rods at increasing diameters into her cervix to dilate (open) it and access the inside of the uterus. They will then use suction to remove the embryo or fetus and the surrounding tissue from the woman’s body. Additional surgical tools might be required depending on how far along the pregnancy. 

Light bleeding and cramping may occur for a few days after a surgical abortion. 

Risks of surgical abortion include: 

  • Uterine perforation (a hole poked through the wall of the uterus with a surgical tool)
  • Uterine infection
  • Uterine bleeding
  • Uterine scarring that can cause infertility and menstrual changes, treated with a second procedure

Learn More

For more information about your pregnancy options, please reach out to Vida Medical Clinic. We offer free essential pregnancy services and evidence-based education to empower you to make a healthy, informed decision.