What Happens during an Abortion


Image: realalternatives.org

Founded to provide pregnancy and parenting support to new and expectant mothers, Real Alternatives is committed to educating women about their options. Real Alternatives helps women to understand what is involved in an abortion, so that they can make informed choices. Medical abortions, also known as chemical abortions, involve the use of a hormone-blocking chemical known as mifepristone. Mifepristone is colloquially known as the abortion pill, as well as RU-486 this chemical is used to end an early pregnancy by inducing an abortion. In some cases, the woman will need to take a second drug, misoprostol to complete the abortion. Misoprostol causes the womb to contract; the contractions expel the baby from the womb. Medical abortions are typically only available to women who are nine or fewer weeks into pregnancy.

After the ninth week of pregnancy, women seeking abortions who are still in their first trimester are more likely to undergo vacuum aspiration, a surgical procedure in which a physician will numb the cervix and insert a catheter into the woman’s cervix. The catheter is connected to a machine that acts like a vacuum cleaner. The fetus is sucked out of the womb through the catheter.

Usually during a second trimester (the fourth, fifth, and sixth months of pregnancy), to perform an abortion, the doctor opens (dilates) the cervix and empties (evacuates) the uterus. This method is known as dilation and evacuation (D & E).
When this abortion method is used in the second trimester, the doctor may insert a sponge-like material into the cervix. As the sponge gets wet it becomes larger, opening the mouth of the cervix. The doctor will remove the sponge two to sixteen hours later. The doctor uses forceps to remove the fetus or fetal parts; the doctor may also suction the fetus or fetal parts by vacuum aspiration using a larger catheter than described for the first trimester. The afterbirth is most commonly removed by vacuum aspiration.
Finally, late-term abortions are abortions performed between 24 and 38 weeks gestation.
An abortion at this stage of your pregnancy may only be done if your physician reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent either your death or a substantial and irreversible impairment of one of your major bodily functions.

When a pregnancy is ended at this stage, one of two procedures is performed: labor induction or cesarean section.
Labor and delivery of the fetus during the third trimester are similar to childbirth. The duration of labor depends on the size of the baby and the “readiness” of the womb.
If labor cannot be started by injecting medicine into the pregnant woman, or if the pregnant woman is too sick to undergo labor, a cesarean section may be done.
Another type of late term abortion that is also performed is known as partial birth abortion. Partial birth abortion is legal in only 18 states.

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