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A Woman's Right to Know

Surgical Methods of Abortion

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Dilation and Curettage (D&C) with Vacuum Aspiration

This is a surgical procedure generally used in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. Unless there are unusual problems, this procedure may be done in a doctor's office or a clinic.

The doctor first opens (dilates) the cervix and then empties the uterus with suction. After suctioning, the doctor may scrape the walls of the uterus to make sure the embryo/fetus, placenta, and contents of the uterus have been completely removed.

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

This procedure is generally used after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure will generally be done in a doctor's office or clinic, but may sometimes be done in a hospital. The doctor will often use ultrasound to determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.

To prepare for the procedure, the doctor will open (dilate) the cervix. Most women experience some pain, so the doctor may give you a painkiller - either locally by shots in the area of the cervix or by a general anesthetic - or a sedative (which will leave you conscious). The uterus will be scraped and the unborn child and placenta are removed. After 16 weeks, the fetus and placenta are removed, using forceps or other instruments. This procedure will take less than an hour.

Abortion by Labor Induction (Medical Induction)*

This procedure is generally used after 16 weeks of a pregnancy. The procedure will generally require a hospital stay of one or more days.

Medicines will be used to start labor, by causing the uterus to contract. These medicines can be put in the vagina, injected in the uterus (womb) or given into the vein (intravenously or by IV). Sometimes more than one medicine will be used. This procedure may take from several hours to several days.

If there is a complication or your physician does not think everything has been delivered, they may use instruments to scrape the uterus and make sure that the unborn child, placenta, and other contents of the uterus have been completely removed.

Who should not have an abortion by medical induction?

Some women should not have a medical induction, such as a woman who has had previous surgery to the uterus or a woman with placenta previa. You should discuss with your doctor if you are one of these women.

Dilation and Extraction (D&X)*

This type of abortion is one of the procedures that can be done after 16 weeks gestation. It may be done in the clinic or in the hospital for more advanced pregnancies.

The doctor will dilate (open) the cervix by gradually stretching with a series of dilators. Once the cervix is sufficiently dilated, the body is extracted through the dilated cervix (intact) to minimize uterine or cervical injury to the woman from instruments or fetal bones.

*If the child is born alive, the attending physician has the legal obligation to take all reasonable steps necessary to maintain the life and health of the child.