Currently, there are several different types of pregnancy terminations. The pregnancy termination procedure used depends upon the stage of pregnancy and the size of the baby. The procedures below are the most common methods:
The Abortion Pill (RU486)
Can be used up to nine weeks Last Menstrual Period (LMP)
Also known as RU486, this drug is only approved by the FDA for use in women up to the 49th day after their last menstrual period; however, it is commonly used up to 9 weeks LMP and beyond. The procedure usually requires three office visits. On the first visit, the woman is given pills to cause the death of the embryo. Two days later, if the abortion has not occurred, she is given a second drug which causes cramps to expel the embryo. The last visit is to determine if the procedure has been completed. RU486 will not work in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. This a potentially life-threatening condition in which the embryo lodges outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. If not diagnosed early, the tube may burst, causing internal bleeding and in some cases, the death of the woman.
1st Trimester Surgical Abortion Procedures
The two most commonly used surgical abortion procedures in the 1st Trimester are Manual Vacuum Aspiration and Suction Curettage.
Vacuum Aspiration – Used up to 7 weeks LMP
A long thin tube is inserted into the uterus. A vacuum device is attached to the tube and the embryo is suctioned out.
Suction Curettage – Used up to 13 weeks LMP
This is the most common surgical abortion procedure. Because the fetus is larger, the doctor must first stretch open the cervix through the use of vaginal medications, laminaria, and/or metal dilating rods. Opening the cervix may be painful, so local anesthesia is typically needed. After the cervix is stretched open, the doctor inserts a hard plastic tube into the uterus, then connects this tube to a suction machine. The suction pulls the fetus’ body apart and out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped knife called a curette to scrape the fetus and fetal parts out of the uterus.
2nd Trimester Abortion Procedures
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) – Used between 13 to 24 weeks LMP
In the second trimester, the fetus is too large to be broken up and removed by suction alone. In this procedure, the cervix must be opened wider than in a 1st trimester abortion. This is done by inserting numerous thin rods made of seaweed (called laminaria) a day or two before the abortion and/or giving other oral or vaginal medications to soften the cervix. The cervix may be opened further using metal dilating rods. Once the cervix is stretched open, the doctor pulls out the fetal parts with forceps. A sharp tool (called a curette) is also used to scrape out the contents of the uterus, removing any remaining tissue.
What about the morning after pill?
Plan B One-Step (Morning-After Pill) is marketed as emergency contraceptive that can be taken within the first 72 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. The Morning-After Pill is a single pill containing a high dosage of a progesterone hormone, and when used as directed, it prevents or ends pregnancy. It works primarily by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. It may also prevent a newly formed life from implnting in the uterus and continuing to develop. This ends the life; however, it won’t disrupt an implanted pregnancy.
Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache and irregular periods. Cramping and abdominal pain may also result from the use of Plan B. Women experiencing severe abdominal pain after taking the drug may have a ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and should seek immediate medical help.
It wouldn’t be like I was getting an abortion … right?
That’s a possibility. Sperm can reach the fallopian tubes just minutes after intercourse. If an egg has already been released, conception could occur. If the Morning-After Pill is taken after the egg is fertilized, the human embryo may not be able to implant due to the effects of the hormones, which alter the lining of the uterine wall. If that’s the case, the Morning-After Pill would cause a very early abortion.
“Real prevention is something one does before the fact, not after the act.”