There are a number of types of abortion, and options depend on the duration of the pregnancy.
An abortion is a medical means of ending a pregnancy.
Worldwide, around half Trusted Source of all reported unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion is legal throughout the majority of the United States and in many other countries.
In this article, we describe the different types of abortion, when and where they are available, and what they involve. We also look into advantages and disadvantages, recovery, and potential risks.
Where abortion is legal in the U.S., doctors usually perform them in the first trimester or the early part of the second trimester.
The first trimester lasts from conception to week 12 of pregnancy. The second trimester is from week 13 to week 28. Some states allow abortion in the latter part of the second trimester.
In 2015, two-thirds (65.4%) of reported abortions in the country took place when the pregnancy had lasted fewer than 8 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.
In the same year, almost all of the reported abortions (91.1%) took place when the pregnancy had lasted fewer than 13 weeks.
In the first trimester, options for abortion commonly include:
- medical abortion
- vacuum aspiration
A woman can usually access medical abortion until about 10 weeks after her last period. It involves taking two types of medication.
Surgical options, such as vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation, are more common after 10 weeks.
In the second trimester, a woman may undergo:
- dilation and evacuation
- labor induction abortion
Abortion is rare during the third trimester, but a doctor may perform it after 29 weeks of pregnancy if a woman’s life is in danger. They may use the same methods that are used during the second trimester.
A medical abortion requires a woman to take pills at separate times.
How it works
This type of abortion involves taking two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol.
A doctor or nurse will advise about the timing, but a woman should take the second medication, misoprostol, no more than 48 hours after taking the first, mifepristone.
Mifepristone stops the pregnancy from developing. Misoprostol triggers the uterus to empty, which will begin 1–4 hours after taking the pill.
A woman will experience cramping and bleeding as the uterus empties, which may feel like having an unusually heavy period. Some women feel more severe cramping than others.
Within around 4–5 hours, the pregnancy tissue will likely have passed from the body, but it can take longer.
Some advantages of a medical abortion are:
- It does not involve surgery.
- It is available in the first trimester.
- It does not require an anesthetic.
Some disadvantages of a medical abortion are:
- It is not available in the second trimester.
- Only part of the treatment takes place in a clinic.
- It may cause painful cramping.
- Rarely, it is not effective.
It may be a good idea to have a partner or friend close by for support while the tissue is passing.
Recovery from a medical abortion involves: