What are the Different Methods of Abortion?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Methods of abortion may vary depending on the stage of a woman’s pregnancy. In general, however, surgical abortion procedures include dilation and sharp curettage (D&C), vacuum aspiration, abdominal hysterectomy, dilation and evacuation, vaginal prostaglandin, and partial birth abortion. While these methods of abortion are routinely practiced, each may be accompanied by complications such as an adverse reaction to anesthesia, infection, irreversible damage to the female reproductive organs and infertility.

Dilation and sharp curettage involves scraping the fetus out of a woman’s uterus using a sharp instrument. A few of the complications that may arise from D&C methods of abortion include infection, infertility, a punctured uterus and a torn cervix. Another possible complication is the incomplete removal of the fetus, which would then require a vacuum aspiration.

As one of the most common medical abortion procedures, vacuum aspiration is performed in the first trimester of a pregnancy. In this method, a suction tube is inserted at the opening of the cervix and the fetus is vacuumed out of the uterus. Complications that may arise from methods of abortion performed in this way also include uterine infection, infertility, a punctured uterus, blood clots in the uterus, a torn cervix, excessive bleeding and incomplete removal of the fetus.

When abortion is considered in the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy, an abdominal hysterectomy may be opted for in which the woman’s uterus is surgically opened and the fetus is removed. This procedure is very similar to that of a cesarean section that is performed during labor and delivery. Complications that may arise as a result of this method are similar to that of other methods of abortion with the addition of a possible infection of the incision made to the uterus or aspiration pneumonia.

Other methods of abortion performed in the second trimester include dilation and evacuation and vaginal prostaglandin abortions. Dilation and evacuation is a combination of suctioning the fetus out through the cervix while simultaneously performing sharp curettage with a sharp instrument. Vaginal prostaglandin methods involve using Prostaglandin E2 suppositories to stimulate uterine contractions and aso cause the cervix to soften until it eventually opens to expel the fetus.

In the final trimester of pregnancy, methods of abortion may include abdominal hysterectomy or a procedure known as intact dilation and extraction, which is commonly referred to as partial birth abortion. This procedure entails pulling the fetus by the feet until only the head remains inside the uterus. At this point, a sharp instrument is driven through the fetus’ skull and the contents of the skull are suctioned out. As a result of the brain’s removal, the skull collapses and the entire fetus is expelled.

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