Therapeutic abortion is the ending of a pregnancy on purpose. A medical abortion is done by taking medicine. This procedure can be done up to 8 weeks of pregnancy.
This process is not the same as emergency contraception. An abortion ends a pregnancy that has started. Emergency contraception helps prevent pregnancy.
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Reasons for Procedure
This procedure may be done to:
- Preserve the mother’s physical and mental health
- End a pregnancy that tests have shown would result in a child with severe abnormalities
It is best to do the procedure as early as possible. This will decreases the chance of complications.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Allergic reaction
- Incomplete procedure
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The care team may meet with you to talk about:
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
- Tests that will need to be done before the procedure, such as an ultrasound to evaluate the stage of pregnancy
No anesthesia will be used.
Description of Procedure
Medicine will be given in the doctor's office. This medicine will stop the pregnancy. It may be a pill, given by shot, or inserted into the vagina. Some people will also need to take other medicine 1 to 3 days later.
An exam will be done about a week later to make sure the procedure is done.
More medicine may be needed if the abortion was not complete. A surgical procedure may also be needed to remove any tissue that remains in the uterus.
How Long Will It Take?
The process can take a few hours. The amount of time depends on the type of medicine used.
Will It Hurt?
Bleeding and cramping is common after the procedure. Medicine and home care help.
It will take up to 2 to 6 weeks for bleeding and cramping to go away. Tampons and sex will need to be avoided. Counseling may be advised to help cope with the procedure.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Pain that you cannot control with medicine
- Vaginal bleeding that soaks more than one pad per hour
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. http://www.plannedparenthood.org
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Abortion. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/abortion. Accessed August 26, 2021.
Induced abortion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/induced-abortion. Accessed August 26, 2021.
What is medical abortion? National Abortion Federation website. Available at: https://www.prochoice.org/pubs%5Fresearch/publications/downloads/about%5Fabortion/medical%5Fabortion.pdf. Accessed August 26, 2021.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review BoardBeverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
- Review Date: 07/2021
- Update Date: 08/26/2021