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Deciding Between Medical Abortion and Surgical Abortion: Care Instructions


There are two types of abortions. One type is done with medicines (medical abortion). The other is a procedure (surgical abortion). The best type for you may depend on things such as your past health, where you live, and how many weeks pregnant you are.

In a medical abortion, you take medicines to end the pregnancy. This may be done at home. Your doctor will explain how to take the pills. They can be taken as soon as you know that you are pregnant. These medicines usually cause bleeding and strong cramps for 3 to 5 hours. You may need to take pain medicine. After 3 to 5 hours, the cramps and bleeding usually lessen. Then for about 1 to 2 weeks, you will probably bleed like you do when you have your period.

You will have an ultrasound or a lab test to make sure the abortion worked. You will be told when to do this. In a few cases, the medicine doesn't work. If that happens, you may need to take a second dose of medicine or have a surgical abortion.

In a surgical abortion, a doctor gently widens the opening of your cervix and puts a tube in your uterus. The tube uses suction to remove the contents of the uterus. This procedure takes less than an hour. Before the procedure, you may get medicine to relieve pain and help you relax. After, you may have strong cramps and light bleeding. They don't usually last more than a few days. But cramping may last for up to a few weeks.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Why might you choose a medical abortion?

You might choose a medical abortion because compared to a surgical abortion:

  • It may be more private.
  • It may feel like a more natural process.
  • It can be done very early in pregnancy.
  • It doesn't require a surgical procedure.
  • It may help you feel more in control.

Why might you choose surgical abortion?

You might choose a surgical abortion because compared to a medical abortion:

  • It takes less time to complete.
  • There is less risk that the abortion won't work.
  • It is less likely to cause heavy bleeding at home.
  • It is less likely to require more visits in the clinic.

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