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Methods used prior to 12 weeks (14 weeks from the last menstrual period)

Early Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is achieved by the action of drugs that interfere with the growth and continued development of the fetus.

Over 24% of abortions done in Alaska in 2013 were done by medical (non-surgical) means.

The first drugs given will:

  • cause the placenta to separate from the uterine wall
  • stop the fetal cells from growing and dividing

A second drug is given within a few days to cause the uterus to contract and expel the uterine contents of pregnancy.

This method takes longer than surgical abortion procedures. The entire procedure generally takes place over the space of a week or less but could take longer. A follow up visit is needed to be certain the uterus is completely empty.

Possible complications and side effects:

Vacuum Aspiration

  • Sixty-five percent of all abortion procedures done in Alaska in 2013 were done by the vacuum aspiration method.
  • A visit to the doctor's office will be required before the procedure for a preliminary examination, ultrasound, laboratory testing, and to obtain informed consent.
  • This procedure can sometimes be accomplished during one long office visit or may require a second visit to complete the procedure. The actual vacuum aspiration procedure generally takes 10-30 minutes plus one to two hours for recovery.

There are several steps involved:

  • A local anesthetic is used to block pain at the cervix (opening to the uterus).
  • The cervix is gently opened to about the diameter of a fountain pen. This may be accompanied by menstrual-like cramps.
  • A cannula (a small, hollow tube) is inserted into the uterus.
  • A vacuum is applied and the uterine contents are extracted by this suction. This may cause some cramping.
  • A follow-up appointment should be made for two to three weeks later.

Possible complications:

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)

  • Although D&C was traditionally used for abortions, most surgical abortions are now done by vacuum aspiration. This procedure can be accomplished within 24 hours, including recovery time at the clinic.
  • No D&C abortion procedures were reported done in Alaska in 2009.

These are the steps involved:

  • A local anesthetic is used to block pain at the cervix (opening to the uterus)
  • The cervix is gently opened to about the diameter of a fountain pen. This may be accompanied by menstrual-like cramps.
  • A curette, a tiny metal loop, is used to gently scrape the walls of the uterus to remove the uterine contents of pregnancy. This may cause some cramping.
  • A follow-up appointment should be made for about two to three weeks later.

Possible complications:

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