Making an Informed Abortion Decision
If you think you might be pregnant, and you’re looking for information on your options, abortion may be something you’re considering. Some women feel like now isn’t a good time to have a baby, or they worry that they won’t be able to continue on in school. Because abortion is a permanent decision, it can be a good idea to take a couple of days to get as much information as you can about all your options to make the best choice for you.
Before an Abortion
Texas requires women who are considering abortion to go through an education process with a medical doctor before they can undergo any procedure. This process includes several doctors visits and examinations, an ultrasound to show and describe to you your baby’s current developmental state, and opportunities to ask and get answers to your questions and concerns.
If you are under 18, you will also need to get the consent of a parent or guardian in order to get an abortion. Alternately, you can get a judge to waive the need for consent. Finally, you must also wait for at least 24 hours after your initial appointment before you can undergo any abortion procedure.
There are several abortion procedures used in Texas, but they all carry their own risks. Make sure you know what the different procedures are and how they work so you know what to expect in your own case.
Medical (Nonsurgical) Abortion
Medical abortion uses medicine to end a pregnancy instead of surgery and is used early in pregnancy — 70 days (10 weeks) or less from the first day of your last menstrual period. This method requires several visits to your doctor. The medicines used for a medical abortion cause bleeding and cramping which result in the expulsion of the fetus and other tissue.
When having a medical abortion, your doctor will give you mifepristone (formerly called RU 486 and now often referred to by the brand name Mifeprex®) during an office visit. It is taken by mouth. After receiving mifepristone, you will have vaginal bleeding and pass clots and fetal tissue. Bleeding usually lasts 9 to 16 days and may last up to 30 days. Your doctor will make an appointment for two days after you take mifepristone. If the medical abortion is not complete, you will be given a second drug, misoprostol. Misoprostol may cause cramps, nausea, diarrhea and other symptoms. Your doctor may send you home with medicine for these symptoms.
Your doctor will make a follow-up appointment for you within 14 days of the day you take the medication. He or she will check your health for any symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as whether your pregnancy has completely ended. Make sure to discuss any physical and emotional symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor. Before your follow-up appointment, you may need to seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe symptoms.
The most common type of abortion is the suction curettage, sometimes called a dilation and curettage, or vacuum curettage. Most women will have some pain with this procedure. Before the procedure, you may be given pain medication, a sedative or both.
For the procedure, you may receive local anesthesia injected or applied in the area of the cervix. You may also receive general anesthesia that will put you to sleep so that you do not feel pain during the procedure. The doctor inserts a speculum to hold open the vagina, as is done for a pelvic exam, and injects or applies local anesthesia. The cervix is stretched open. Then the contents of the uterus, including the baby and placenta, are removed using a suction device that is inserted into the uterus.
The procedure usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, but can take longer depending upon the growth stage of the baby. Possible side effects can include hemorrhaging (heavy bleeding), perforation of the uterus, bowel or bladder injury, failure to remove all parts of the baby and other tissue, and an increased risk of infection and infertility.
Dilation and Evacuation
Most second trimester abortions are done by dilation and evacuation (D&E). This surgical procedure is usually performed in a surgical center or hospital.
Before this procedure, the doctor will prepare the cervix. This process softens and stretches open the cervix and may require one or more visits. The softening and opening of the cervix before performing the D&E helps decrease the risk of tears or lacerations to the cervix. Most women will experience some pain with this procedure. Before the procedure you may be given pain medicine, a sedative or both.
For the procedure, you may receive local or regional anesthesia injected or applied in the area of the cervix. You may also receive general anesthesia that will put you to sleep during the procedure. Your doctor will discuss your options, and any risks, for anesthesia.
At the beginning of the procedure, the doctor will make sure that the cervix is open. The fluid surrounding the baby (amniotic fluid) will be removed with a suction device placed into the uterus. The baby and placenta are removed from the uterus using surgical instruments. Finally, a suction device will be inserted into the uterus at the end of the procedure to remove any fetal tissue that remains. After 14 weeks of pregnancy, the baby, placenta and other contents of the womb may be removed piece by piece using surgical instruments. This procedure usually takes less than one hour.
Recovery after an abortion takes time. Many women experience a variety of symptoms and problems, ranging from cramping and discomfort to spotting and bleeding. However, occasionally more serious problems can occur as well, such as:
- Heavy bleeding (bleeding through two or more thick pads in an hour for more than two hours in a row)
- Stomach pain and discomfort, including feelings of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Fever higher than 100.4 degrees
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Severe pain that doesn’t go down with medication
- Internal bleeding and clotting
- Scarring or damage in the uterus which can make it more difficult to become pregnant in the future
In addition, some women experience psychological symptoms related to their abortion, including:
- Feelings of depression
- Feelings of grief or loss
- Mood swings and emotional outbursts
- Thoughts of suicide
Get the Facts You Need
If you’re considering abortion, make sure you have all of the facts and information first. Abortion isn’t a decision you can take back, and it isn’t a choice you should make lightly. Call one of our centers near you today, or call 1-800-712-HELP to speak to someone 24 hours a day.