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An abortion is an elective termination of a pregnancy. It can be done through the giving only of a pill or by dilating the cervix at various stages of pregnancy and evacuating the contents. Abortions are usually done at specific abortion centers that only do abortions.
If the pregnancy is early enough, less than 6 weeks or so, you can take a pill. It is considered a safe and effective way to have a spontaneous abortion at home. The major risks are heavy bleeding, an incomplete abortion, and infection of the uterus. Because the pill is taken at home, there is a chance that problems could arise that aren’t taken care of by a health professional. If you are a minor, you may need to get parental permission by at least one parent in order to get the pill.
There is more than one type of in-clinic abortion. Most women end up with an aspiration with or without a cervical dilatation. Vacuum aspirations are done up to 16 weeks after the last menstrual period. The risks of aspiration are heavy bleeding, infection of the uterus and an incomplete abortion which causes persistent bleeding, often for weeks after the procedure.
Dilatation and evacuation is another type of procedure done after sixteen weeks gestation. It requires dilating the cervix and evacuating the contents. The main risks are uterine infections, heavy bleeding and an incomplete abortion which can lead to infection and heavy bleeding.
Because the abortion is a complex and difficult decision to make, it is important to know what to expect during the procedure. Prior to the procedure, you need to do the following:
In the aspiration abortion, the healthcare provider examines the uterus and offers you sedative medication and medications for pain. A speculum is inserted into your vagina. The cervix is numbed using numbing medication. Dilators will be placed in the cervix that progressively dilate the cervix by absorbing fluids. When they get bigger, your cervix dilates more. Antibiotics are given to prevent infection and, when the cervix is big enough, a tube will be inserted into the uterus. A suction machine or hand held machine will be used to gently empty the uterus. For some, the extraction can be more painful than in others. A curette might be used to remove anything left inside the uterus and to check to make sure the uterus is, in fact, empty. This is what’s called a dilatation and curettage or a D & C. The aspiration procedure takes about 5-10 minutes total, not accounting for the time it takes to dilate the cervix. You recover in about an hour’s time.
In a dilatation and evacuation, your uterus will be examined and you will receive pain medication and IV sedation. A speculum will be inserted into the cervix. Medication or absorbent dilators will be used to get the cervix prepared for the evacuation. You will receive antibiotics to prevent infection. The doctor will use medical instruments and a suction machine to empty the uterus. This procedure takes between 10 and 20 minutes but there is the additional time to prepare the uterus and cervix for the procedure. Some women feel mild cramping pain while others find it almost intolerable.
After the procedures, it is normal to have bleeding that is heavy but slows after a few days. Spotting will last up to six weeks and off and on spotting that lasts a bit longer. You can only use pads after an abortion.
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