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Abortion is the early ending of a pregnancy. This can be done with medicines (medical abortion) or a surgical procedure (surgical abortion). It can also be done using medicines to start labour and delivery (induction abortion). When a pregnancy ends on its own, it's called a miscarriage.
For some, the choice to have an abortion is clear. For others, it's more complicated. Your other options are to continue the pregnancy and either become a parent or arrange an adoption. You may need some time to think about your choices.
Talking to people you trust may help you to decide what's best for you. If you're comfortable, you might talk with your doctor. You may also want to talk with someone close to you who understands how the different choices would affect your life.
The earlier you are in your pregnancy, the more options you are likely to have.
Before 10 weeks, you may have a choice of taking medicine to end the pregnancy or having a procedure such as vacuum aspiration.
After 10 weeks, surgical abortion is usually the only option.footnote 1 Abortions are rarely done after 24 weeks of pregnancy (during the late second trimester and entire third trimester).
In Alberta, the majority of abortions done early in the pregnancy are done in specialized abortion clinics (some are done in hospitals).
Medical and surgical abortions are generally very safe. Both are low-risk options. The risk may be less if the abortion is done before 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Having an abortion usually won't keep you from getting pregnant later.
It will probably take you a day to a few weeks to feel better after an abortion. Ask your doctor when it's okay to have vaginal sex.
Keep in mind that you can get pregnant in the weeks right after an abortion. If you don't want to get pregnant, talk with your doctor about birth control options.
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.
Your doctor will give you information about what to expect after an abortion. Normal symptoms that most often occur include:
Follow your doctor's instructions on what to do at home.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now if you have any of these symptoms after an abortion:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have any of these symptoms after a recent abortion:
Carefully follow all of your doctor's instructions after you've had an abortion.
If you didn't get instructions, follow this general advice.
This could increase your risk of infections that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.
Take them exactly as instructed.
Most people can return to normal activities 1 to 2 days after an abortion.
You can get pregnant in the weeks after an abortion. If you don't want to get pregnant, talk to your doctor about birth control options.
CitationsCostescu D, et al. (2016). Medical abortion. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 38(4): 366–389. DOI: 10.1016/j.jogc.2016.01.002. Accessed May 22, 2020.
Adaptation Date: 8/15/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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