Deciding to have an abortion is a personal matter – a difficult decision made by the couple or the pregnant woman. Coming up with a decision that is major, irreversible and life-changing may leave a couple or an individual analyzing, evaluating, discussing for days, weeks, or for some even a couple of months. Abortion however has some sort of deadline – a cut off depending on the laws in a country, or the state.
Most women get a positive pregnancy test a couple of days or a week after a missed period. However those that are trying to conceive may already see a second line a couple of days after implantation or even before their missed period. Usually though, for those who are considering to terminate their pregnancy, the discovery comes much later – usually a week or two after a missed period.
Wikipedia defines abortion as terminating a pregnancy even before it can survive outside the mother’s womb. This is being done by extracting the embryo or fetus either through oral medication, or medical surgery. This specific article deals with induced abortion, and not a spontaneous one or that which is commonly referred to as miscarriage.
But how far along can you be to get an induced abortion?
In the United States, it is legal to get an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus which is usually between 22 to 24 weeks depending on the rule being enforced in a specific state. As for how far along can you have such a procedure – it will depend on the fetus or embryo’s age of gestation or AOG, and the AOG will also determine the type of induced abortion that can be done.
There are two types of induced abortion – first is the medication abortion, and the second one is called surgical abortion.
Medication abortion makes use of drugs to induce abortion – and is usually done in a medical facility or a private clinic by a health practitioner. A drug called Mifepristone is usually used for this purpose, and the first dose of which is taken during the clinic visit, and the second one, a day or two after at home or where the pregnant woman is comfortable to take it. It usually causes cramps, and heavy bleeding. This type of abortion can be done until nine weeks of gestation.
Surgical abortion on the other hand is the type of abortion done for pregnancies that are between the ninth week of gestation up until the 15th week of pregnancy. It is being done by a health practitioner inside a hospital or a private clinic using suction or vacuum aspiration. The vacuuming of the embryo or fetus, placenta, and tissues can be done manually or through an electric pump.
Another type of surgical abortion is the Dilation and Evacuation or commonly termed as D&E which involves surgery by opening up the cervix, and suctioning the fetus using surgical tools.
Should the pregnancy reach the third trimester and it needs to be terminated – either because of high probability of endangering the mother’s life, fetal abnormality, or other reasons allowed by the state or the government, then a Hysterotomy Abortion will be performed on the pregnant woman. This type of surgical abortion will require that the mother be sedated under a general anesthesia, as it is very similar to giving birth through a caesarean section surgery.
Safety of the abortion procedure
For reasons involving the life of the mother, or the fetus, induced abortion could be a routine procedure undertaken in a hospital by a medical doctor. Elective induced abortions on the other hand can also be done in a hospital setting, or a private clinic depending on the choice of the pregnant woman. According to the World Health Organization, as long as the procedure is undertaken safely, in sanitary premises, and under the care of a health practitioner, the mortality rate will be very low.
Usually after the procedure, the patient may experience cramping similar to that of a menstrual cramp, plus heavy bleeding for medication abortion patients, and menstrual-period like bleeding for those that underwent surgical abortion. Patients are usually advised to take a bit of rest, and avoid performing heavy lifting or tiresome activities for a couple of days.
Abortion however still carries some risks, which are very small according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service website. Quoting from one of their informational posts on abortion, they enumerated the following possible complications of induced abortion:
- A one out of 10 possibility of contracting a womb infection;
- Excessive bleeding which can occur in one out of 1,000 abortion procedures;
- Damage to the cervix which may happen to 1 out of 100 surgical abortions;
- Damage to the womb which can happen to 1 out of 250 to 1,000 women having surgical abortions; and,
- Some pregnancy remaining in the womb which happens to one out of 20 pregnant women who have elected to have an abortion.
Reasons for undergoing abortion
Abortions that are non-spontaneous could either be elective or therapeutic. Therapeutic abortion for instance is being sought when the pregnancy could gravely endanger the pregnant woman’s life or if the fetus would end up having severe disabilities upon birth. Elective abortion on the other hand may be brought forth by reasons which include: personal choice of the pregnant woman, poverty, rape or incest.
In the developed world, therapeutic abortions can be done until the age of viability. Age of viability of the fetus is when a fetus can survive outside the womb once extracted. With the help of modern medicine – fetuses with the age of gestation of about 22 to 24 weeks can survive, and so in the United States this is the usual cut off. The exact AOG though will depend on the regulation of the specific state where the pregnant woman will undergo the procedure.
In developed countries, abortion procedures can be done in public hospitals. The procedure can also be done in private abortion clinics, although with a higher cost.