Types of Abortion

Abortions can be either spontaneous or induced. Spontaneous abortions or miscarriages happen without any medical intervention. Most cases occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. Induced abortions are performed using specific surgical procedures or medications.

An induced abortion procedure involves removing the fetus or embryo along with the placenta from a pregnant woman. To do this there are different types of abortion procedures that are followed depending on the length of the pregnancy and if any other medical conditions exist. The main types of abortion methods used include:

  • Medical Abortion: Abortions that are carried out using medications or pills rather than surgery are referred to as medical abortions. This type of abortion will only work during the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The process involves first taking one pill to prevent the body from producing hormones that support a pregnancy. Following this, another pill is taken to drive out the tissues and reduce the size of the uterus. A follow up visit with the doctor is required to ensure that all the tissues in the uterus have been expelled. Light to heavy bleeding will occur during this procedure.
  • Abortion using Suction Aspiration: During this procedure, carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus and placenta are extracted from the uterus using a vacuum instrument. This type of abortion is generally performed under some form of anesthesia.
  • Dilation and Curettage: Also known as D & C or suction curettage, this type of abortion is a surgical procedure used on women who have not yet reached the 18th week of pregnancy. In cases of a miscarriage, where the fetus has detached from the uterine wall, a D&C procedure may also be required. Between 15 to 21 weeks of pregnancy, the Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) procedure may be used to abort the pregnancy.
  • Induced Abortion: This is a surgical procedure that is rarely performed. A surgeon will inject a mix of water and potassium chloride or urea into the amniotic sac to terminate the pregnancy. Pitocin and prostaglandins are also used to induce labor.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Deaths From Spontaneous Abortion in the United States, Stuart M. Berman, Trent MacKay, David A. Grimes, Nancy J. Binkin, JAMA. 1985;253(21):3119-3123.
  2. Mortality From Abortion and Childbirth: Are the Statistics Biased? Willard Cates, Jr, Jack C. Smith, Roger W. Rochat, David A. Grimes, JAMA. 1982;248(2):192-196.
  3. Abortion reform, RG Bubeck, J Am Osteopath Assoc June 1, 1972 71:842