What Are Your First-Trimester Abortion Options?

The decision to end a pregnancy is an incredibly difficult and personal one. Whether you're still doing your research or have made up your mind as to how you'd like to proceed, you may be interested in the mechanics of how pregnancy is ended during the first trimester. Read on to learn more about your first-trimester abortion options.

Option #1: Medication-Induced Abortion

Many pregnancies that are detected early—before six to eight weeks—are ended through a medication-induced abortion. During this procedure, after a positive pregnancy test and (in some states) an ultrasound, you'll be prescribed medication that will dilate the cervix and evacuate the uterine lining, essentially forcing a menstrual period. This medication can be taken in the privacy of your own home, allowing you to end your pregnancy on your terms. The process may take as long as a typical menstrual period and will include the same bleeding, cramping, and other discomforts generally associated with a period.

After your medication-induced abortion, you'll need to return to your doctor within a week or two to take another pregnancy test and ensure that the medication did, in fact, end your pregnancy. If you're still pregnant, a surgical abortion may be your only other option.

Option #2: Surgical Abortion

Before medication-induced abortions became commonplace, early surgical abortions were essentially the only first-trimester abortion option. During a surgical abortion, you're given some anti-anxiety medication that allows you to relax during the procedure. The physician will then insert a small speculum into your cervix to open it, placing a tube through your cervix and inside your uterus. This tube will then rid your uterus of its contents, including the fertilized egg and any early placenta. 

Although surgical abortions are more invasive than medication-induced abortions and must be performed at a hospital or freestanding medical center, they generally involve slightly less recovery time than a medication-induced abortion. Because the surgical abortion removes all the uterine contents, there's less post-abortion bleeding, just some mild cramping. As with a medication-induced abortion, you'll need to take a pregnancy test a few days later to ensure that the pregnancy hormones are leaving your system.

If you're considering either of these two abortion options, make a list of questions to ask your doctor before pursuing the procedure. Whether you ultimately opt for a medication-induced abortion, a surgical abortion, or neither, you'll be able to rest assured knowing that you made your decision only after reviewing your options.