Facing unexpected pregnancy can cause many different emotions and feelings. An important step in making your decision is to be fully informed about each option, including abortion. Abortion is a medical procedure, so it is vital to understand the actual procedure itself before scheduling an appointment at an abortion clinic. There are two kinds of abortive procedures: medical and surgical.

Medical Abortion

Also known as the abortion pill, a medical abortion is an abortion procedure used up to the first 7 to 9 weeks of pregnancy. It consists of two medications that must be prescribed by a doctor. The first medication, Mifepristone, is taken orally while at the doctor’s office. This drug stops the flow of progesterone, which is a hormone necessary to continue the pregnancy.

The second medication, Misoprostol, is taken orally or placed vaginally usually between 36 and 72 hours after ingesting Mifepristone. Misoprostol causes contractions, which expels the fetus from the uterus. The expulsion process can take anywhere from several hours to several days.

What are the side effects of a medical abortion?

Potential side effects of a medical abortion include:

  • Intense cramping and heavy bleeding
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Incomplete abortion requiring a surgical procedure

Surgical Abortion

There are a few different surgical abortion procedures. The specific procedure you are eligible for is dependent upon the gestational age of your pregnancy.


Aspiration is a surgical abortion performed during 6 and 16 weeks’ gestation. A local anesthetic is typically used to numb the cervix. It is then held in place by a surgical instrument as it is dilated synthetically. Once the cervix is wide enough, a long plastic tube suctions out the fetus and placenta.

Dilation & Evacuation

Dilation & Evacuation is performed after 16 weeks’ gestation. At this stage, the abortion provider will usually insert a synthetic dilator inside the cervix 24 hours prior to the actual abortion procedure. The following day, a surgical instrument and dilating rods are used to continue the dilation process. A local anesthetic is used to numb the cervix, and a shot may be used to ensure fetal death. Then, a long tube will be used to remove the contents of the uterus. A spoon-shaped instrument is used to scrape the lining, followed by a final suctioning.

What are the side effects of a surgical abortion?

Potential side effects of a surgical abortion procedure include:

  • Cramping
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heavy bleeding or bleeding longer than anticipated
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to cervix or uterus
  • Infection

If you have any questions about abortion procedures or are interested in talking to someone about your options, Hopeline Pregnancy Center is here to help. Schedule an appointment with us today to learn about your options.


American Pregnancy Association: Medical Abortion

American Pregnancy Association: Surgical Abortion