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Emergency contraception: used within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. Non-surgical abortion method. Most commonly referred to as the "Morning After Pill" or "Plan B," emergency contraception is a way of preventing a pregnancy when another contraceptive fails or after unprotected sex. Plan works like a regular birth control pill, but it does contain a potent steroid that could have serious side effects. A pregnancy test is recommended to determine if you're already pregnant.
RU486, Mifepristone: used within 4 to 7 weeks after the last menstrual period (LMP). Non-surgical abortion method. Also known as the "Abortion Pill," RU486 is used to terminate an early pregnancy and requires up to three office visits. On the first visit, three mifepristone tablets are administered to the woman. Two days later, two misoprostol tablets are administered. The combination of these drugs causes the uterus to expel the fetus and blood. The woman should return to the provider's office 14 days later to make sure the pregnancy has ended.
Early vacuum aspiration, Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), IPAS syringe: used within 7 weeks after LMP. Surgical abortion method. This is when the cervical muscle is stretched out and a flexible tube is passed through the cervix into the uterus. A handheld syringe is attached to the tubing and the fetus is then suctioned out.
Suction curettage and dilation & curettage (D&C): used within 6 to 14 weeks after LMP. Surgical abortion method. The cervix is opened with a dilator (a metal rod) or laminaria (thin sticks derived from plants). The tubing is inserted into the uterus and connected to a suction machine. The tube runs along the surface of the uterus, causing the fetus to be dislodged and pulled out of the uterus.
Dilation & curettage (D&C): this is a similar method in which a curette (a loop-shaped knife) is used to scrape the fetal parts out of the uterus. The remaining fetal tissue is then suctioned out of the uterus.
Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): used within 13 to 24 weeks after LMP. Surgical abortion method. This procedure takes 2 to 3 days to complete. First, an ultrasound is done to determine the size of the uterus and the number of weeks of the pregnancy. The cervix is then opened by inserting dilators or laminaria a day or two before the abortion. After the cervix is dilated, the dilators are removed. Metal forceps are used to break up and remove the fetal tissue. A curette is then used to scrape the lining of the uterus, and suction is used to remove any remaining debris.
Dilation and Extraction (D&X): used from 20 weeks to full term. Surgical abortion method. This is also known as "Partial Birth Abortion" and is a 3-day procedure. The cervix is dilated for the first 2 days, and medicine is administered for cramping. On the third day, the woman is given medication to induce labor. At that point, an ultrasound is used to locate the baby's legs. The doctor grabs the baby's leg with forceps and delivers the baby up to the head. Scissors are inserted into the base of the skull to create an opening. A suction catheter is placed into the opening to remove the skull contents, which causes the skull to collapse. The baby is then removed.
Prostaglandin abortion: this is a surgical abortion method. Prostaglandin, a hormone, is injected into the amniotic sac to induce labor, usually resulting in the death and discharge of the fetus. In late-term abortions, the doctor first injects a toxic solution into the fetus' heart to ensure death and then administers the prostaglandin injection to discharge the fetus.
Common Physical Side Effects
Side effects may include nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, bleeding, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, back pain and breast tenderness.
More Serious Physical Effects
Serious physical effects may include heavy or prolonged bleeding, infection, incomplete abortion, allergic reaction to drugs, damage to the cervix, scarring of the uterine lining, perforation of the uterus, and damage to internal organs. Women who have had an abortion may also be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Post-Abortion Emotional Effects
Women who have had an abortion may also experience an increased risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, alcohol use, and suicidal behavior.