What You Need to Know Before Having an Abortion

If you’re experiencing an unplanned pregnancy — or suspect you might be pregnant — you know you have some important decisions to make.

One option you’ve likely heard about is abortion. You may have heard from people you know, or from various media sources, that abortion is a quick, easy, painless procedure with no significant risks to your health.

But while you may feel a sense of urgency, it is a good idea to take the time to be well informed before making a decision about a medical procedure.

In this article, we talk about some important things you need to know before deciding whether to have an abortion procedure.

Verify that You Are Pregnant

You cannot undergo any type of abortion procedure unless you have a confirmed pregnancy.

Even if you’ve gotten a positive result from a home pregnancy test, please be aware that these are not always accurate. You can get a free, lab-quality pregnancy test at Mosaic (PHC) so that you won’t have any doubt.

Determine Whether Your Pregnancy Is Viable

Did you know that up to one quarter of all confirmed pregnancies will end in miscarriage before the baby can survive outside the womb?

Once your pregnancy is confirmed, the next step is to determine whether your pregnancy is viable — which means your baby is present, alive, and developing properly for his or her gestational age.

A free ultrasound at Mosaic will establish the viability of your pregnancy. All ultrasounds at Mosaic are performed by licensed sonographers, free of charge, and completely confidential. In some cases, we may be able to schedule your ultrasound on the same day as your pregnancy test.

Learn About Fetal Development

Your baby’s stage of fetal development will affect the different types of abortion procedures that may be available to you.

The first 12 weeks of your pregnancy are known as the first trimester. All of your baby’s genetic characteristics — such as hair color, eye color, skin tone, and even some personality traits — are determined at conception when he or she receives exactly 23 chromosomes from you and 23 from his or her father. As soon as four weeks after conception, your baby’s heart is beating, and his or her brain and spinal cord are functioning. By the end of the first trimester all organs have formed and your baby begins making voluntary movements such as making a fist with his or her fingers.

During the second trimester, between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy, your baby begins to move and stretch more extensively. He or she is also able to swallow and can hear and respond to sound both inside and outside of the mother’s uterus.

Learn About Different Abortion Procedures

There are two primary abortion procedures: chemical abortion and surgical abortion.

Chemical Abortion

A chemical abortion involves taking pills to induce a miscarriage. Also called a “medical” abortion, the most widely used method is the “abortion pill” or RU486.

  • Abortion Pill (RU486). This is actually a two-drug combination. The first pill, mifepristone, causes the lining of your uterus to break down, depriving the baby of oxygen and nutrients and causing death, similar to the morning-after pill. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 1 to 2 days after mifepristone. It causes your uterus to contract until your baby’s remains are expelled from your body. 

Note: Many people confuse the “morning after pill” also known as emergency contraception (EC) with the “abortion pill” RU486. The confusion stems from one method in which EC works – it changes the lining of the uterus possibly preventing implantation of an already fertilized egg (conception). This poses an ethical dilemma for those who believe life begins at conception, not at implantation. http://americanpregnancy.org/preventing-pregnancy/emergency-contraception/

Surgical Abortion

This method ends pregnancy by surgically removing your baby from the uterus. Two common methods of surgical abortion are vacuum aspiration abortion and dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion.

  • Vacuum Aspiration Abortion. With this procedure, your baby is removed from your uterus by sucking him or her out using a large vacuum tube, resulting in death. This method is commonly used during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) Abortion. Once you’ve entered the second trimester of pregnancy, your baby’s development is much more advanced, which makes abortion much more complicated and risky. Dilation and evacuation (D&E) typically involves a combination of three procedures:
  • Vacuum aspiration is used to remove the fluid surrounding your baby
  • Forceps are used to remove large pieces of your baby’s body from your uterus
  • A very sharp tool called a curette is used to scrape the lining of your uterus to remove any remaining fetal remains or placental tissue

Learn About Abortion Side Effects & Risks

Abortion does come with risks and complications – including death. 

Many women suffer at least one of the following side effects of abortion:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Injury to the uterus and cervix
  • Blood clots
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Cervical blockage when fetal tissue becomes lodged in the uterus

After having an abortion, you may notice the following symptoms, which can continue indefinitely if left untreated:

  • Severe headaches and muscle aches
  • Dizziness
  • Severe, persistent abdominal pain
  • Hot flashes
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Genital pain and swelling
  • Vaginal discharge

Ending your pregnancy prematurely may also cause abnormal hormonal fluctuations that affect your mental health. Some women will develop post-abortion syndrome, which causes feelings of extreme sadness, grief, and guilt, leading to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts.

Looking for Abortion Facts?

If you have questions about abortion, or other pregnancy options like parenting or adoption, contact Mosaic PHC for a free, confidential appointment.

We provide pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and medically accurate information so that you can make an informed decision and feel confident about your choice. And unlike an abortion clinic, Mosaic PHC is a nonprofit organization with no financial stake in the outcome of your decision.

At Mosaic PHC, we understand that an unplanned pregnancy can be one of the most challenging experiences you will ever face. That’s why we’re here to provide the compassionate care and complete information you need. We do not perform or refer for abortions, but we will provide you with medically accurate information that you need to make your decision.

Sources:

1 – Medline Plus. (2016). Fetal Development. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Accessed from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm.

2 – American Pregnancy Association. (2015). Medical Abortion Procedures. Accessed from http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/medical-abortions/.

3 – American Pregnancy Association. (2015). Surgical Abortion Procedures. Accessed from http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/surgical-abortions/.

4 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Abortion Surveillance — United States, 2012. Accessed from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6410a1.htm?s_cid=ss6410a1_e#tab23.