Is this topic for you?
This topic is about ending a pregnancy. If you have had unprotected sex in the last 5 days and don't want to become pregnant, see the topic Emergency Contraception.
What is an abortion?
Abortion is the early ending of a pregnancy.
Sometimes abortion happens on its own. This is called miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. But women can also choose to end a pregnancy by getting surgery or taking medicine.
When should you see a doctor?
If you think you might be pregnant, see a doctor as soon as possible. If you are pregnant, this is an important time to learn as much as you can about your options. If you are thinking about having an abortion, it's best not to wait. The earlier you are in your pregnancy, the more options you are likely to have. Also, the risk of problems will be lower.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and will do a physical exam. You will have lab tests to make sure that you are pregnant. You may also have an ultrasound.
How will you know what decision is right for you?
Deciding to continue your pregnancy or end it is very personal. Counseling may help you to decide what is best for you. If you're comfortable, you can start by talking with your doctor. Family planning clinics also offer counseling to help you decide what is best for you. You may also want to talk with someone close to you who understands how pregnancy and raising a child would affect your life. Carefully think through your choices, which are to:
When can an abortion be done?
It will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are. You may have a choice between a medical abortion (which means taking medicine to end the pregnancy) and a surgical abortion such as vacuum aspiration or dilation and evacuation (D&E).
After 9 weeks, surgical abortion is the only option. The risks from having an abortion in the second trimester are higher than in the first trimester.
Abortions done early in the pregnancy can be done by your doctor or gynecologist. Some nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants may also be trained to do some types of abortions. Abortion services are most likely to be offered at university hospitals and family planning clinics.
Some states have legal restrictions on abortion. Talk to your closest Planned Parenthood or other family planning clinic to learn more about restrictions in your state.
In some states, women younger than 18 will need a parent's permission. A minor can get a court order that will allow an abortion without a parent's consent.
Abortions are rarely done after 24 weeks of pregnancy (during the late second trimester and entire third trimester). Many states in the U.S. have restrictions on abortions after 24 weeks.
How safe is abortion?
Abortions done by doctors are very safe. Less than 1 out of 100 women have a serious problem from an abortion.1
The safest timing for an abortion is usually during the first trimester. This is when a low-risk medicine or vacuum aspiration procedure can be used. Medicine is not recommended after 9 weeks.
After 9 weeks, only surgical abortion can be used. Problems from surgical abortion in the second trimester may include heavy blood loss, infection, and moderate to severe pain.
Will you be able to have children in the future?
The most widely used methods for abortion do not prevent a woman from becoming pregnant later.
Keep in mind that you can get pregnant in the weeks right after an abortion. This is a good time to start using birth control that works well and fits your lifestyle.
It will probably take you 1 to 3 weeks to heal and feel better after an abortion. You should not have sex during this time. But when you do have sex again, be sure to use a condom for several weeks or for as long as your doctor tells you to. This will help to prevent infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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