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What even is an abortion?

Alright, so, abortion. It’s a bit of a sticky topic; it brings up all sorts of discussions about medicine, ethics, and the law. Maybe you’re curious about it, trying to wrap your head around what it’s all about. Well, that’s why we’re here—to give you the lowdown.

So, what exactly is an abortion?

Well, it’s a medical procedure aimed at ending a pregnancy. Basically, it involves removing the embryo or fetus from the uterus, either through surgery or with meds, depending on how far along the pregnancy is.

Let’s clear up what abortion isn’t.

First off, it’s not the same as a miscarriage. Miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends naturally, whereas abortion is intentionally induced by someone.

Also, it’s not the same as an ectopic pregnancy, which is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus and is not a pregnancy that can be carried to term. Surgery for ectopic pregnancy isn’t about ending the fetus’s life, it’s about removing it from where it shouldn’t be.

Oh, and taking Plan B? Not an abortion. Plan B prevents the release of an egg, it doesn’t mess with a fertilized one.


Now, onto the types of abortions.

Depending on how far along the pregnancy is, a woman may have a chemical abortion. This one involves a couple of pills. The first one, called mifepristone, basically puts the brakes on a hormone called progesterone, which is all about promoting pregnancy. Without this hormone, the woman’s body stops sending nutrients to the baby, essentially starving it to death. Then comes the second pill, misoprostol, which kicks off some uterine cramps, similar to labor, helping to expel the baby and pregnancy tissue through the vagina. This method is FDA-approved up to the 10th week of pregnancy.

Then there are surgical abortions, like aspiration or dilation & evacuation (D&E). Aspiration abortions usually happen between weeks 5 and 13. Before the procedure, the woman gets checked out, including an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. (Side note: confirming pregnancy with an ultrasound is super important. ) Then, the cervix gets dilated, and a suction catheter is used to vacuum out the baby from the womb. After that, a metal tool called a curette is used to scrape out any remaining tissue from the uterus.

Similar to aspiration, a D&E abortion involves dilating the cervix, but it’s typically for pregnancies past 14 weeks. Since the baby is more developed at this point, it’s too big to suction out. So, the cervix gets dilated beforehand, then a suction catheter empties out the amniotic fluid. After that, a sopher clamp, a grasping tool with rows of sharp “teeth,”  is used to grab and pull the baby’s limbs from its body, followed by the trickier part of crushing the skull. To make sure everything’s cleared out, the uterus gets scraped with a curette to remove any leftover remains.


Now, let’s talk about recovery.

Like any medical procedure, there are some risks involved—things like blood clots, excessive bleeding, infection, allergic reactions, pain, complications with future pregnancies and even rare cases of death.

Recovery-wise, your body needs time to heal. Expect some bleeding, but avoid tampons to keep track of it. Don’t use douches or soaps down there- it could lead to an infection. And take it easy—you might feel lightheaded. Don’t bathe or drive if you feel like that. 

And hey, your emotions might be all over the place afterward—relief, guilt, sadness, confusion, you name it. But just know you’re not alone, and we’re here to offer support. We offer post-abortion counseling at our center, so reach out if you need someone to talk to!


DISCLAIMER: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking because of something you have read on this website.

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