What Are the Different Types of Abortion Procedures?

We believe it is every woman’s right to be well informed about all of their pregnancy options. If you are considering an abortion, we recommend you know and understand the different procedures and any possible health risks to you so that you can make the best decision for your future. Below are descriptions of the most common abortion procedures and their possible health risks. We are here to listen to your thoughts and would love to talk with you more about this option and answer any questions you may have.

Methods used before fourteen weeks gestation from last menstrual period:

RU486, Mifepristone: (Abortion Pill) – Within 10 weeks

A drug is given that stops the hormones needed for the fetus to grow. This causes the placenta or attachment of the fetus to the womb to separate, ending the pregnancy.

A second drug is given by mouth or placed in the vagina causing the womb to contract and expel the fetus and placenta.

A return visit to the doctor is required for follow-up to make sure the abortion is complete.

Manual Vacuum Aspiration

A local anesthetic is applied or injected into or near the cervix (the opening to the womb) to prevent discomfort or pain. Conscious sedation and/or general anesthesia are also commonly used.

The opening of the cervix is gradually stretched with a series of dilators. The thickest dilator is about the width of a fountain pen.

A tube is inserted into the womb and is attached to a suction system to remove the fetus, placenta, and membranes from the womb.

Dilation & Suction Curettage

A local anesthetic is applied or injected into or near the cervix (the opening to the womb) to prevent discomfort or pain. Conscious sedation and/or general anesthesia are also commonly used.

The opening of the cervix is gradually stretched with a series of dilators. The thickest dilator is about the width of a fountain pen.

A spoon-like instrument (curette) is used to scrape the walls of the uterus to remove the fetus, placenta, and membranes.

A follow-up appointment should be made with the doctor.

Methods used at fourteen weeks gestation and after:

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

Sponge-like pieces of absorbent material are placed into the cervix. This material becomes moist and slowly opens the cervix. It remains in place for several hours or overnight. A second or third application of the sponge material may be necessary.

Following dilation of the cervix, medications may be given to ease pain and prevent infection.

After a local or general anesthesia has been administered, the fetus, placenta, and membranes are removed from the uterus with medical instruments such as forceps and suction curettage.

Occasionally, for complete removal, it may be necessary to dismember the baby.

What Are the Medical Risks of Abortion?

The risk of complications for the woman increases with each week of pregnancy.

  • Pelvic Infection (Sepsis): Bacteria (germs) from the vagina may enter the cervix and womb and cause an infection. Antibiotics are used to treat an infection. In rare cases, a repeat suction, hospitalization or surgery may be needed.
  • Incomplete Abortion: Fetal parts or parts of the placenta may not be completely emptied from the womb, requiring further medical procedures. Incomplete abortion may result in infection and bleeding.
  • Cut or Torn Cervix: The opening of the womb (cervix) may be torn while it is being stretched open to allow medical instruments to pass through and into the uterus. This can lead to discomfort, infection, and the formation of scar tissue which can make it harder to get pregnant or give birth in the future.
  • Bleeding: Some amount of bleeding is common following an abortion. Heavy bleeding is not common and may be treated by repeat suction, medication or rarely, surgery. Ask the doctor to explain heavy bleeding and what to do if it occurs.
  • Perforation of the Wall of the Womb: A medical instrument may go through the wall of the uterus. Depending on the severity, perforation can lead to infection, heavy bleeding or both. Surgery may be required to repair the uterine tissue, and in the most severe cases a hysterectomy may be required.
  • Anesthesia-Related Complications: As with other surgical procedures, anesthesia increases the risk of complication.
  • Allergic Reactions to Medications: Taking any new medication, such as RU-486, mifepristone, misoprostol, or post-abortion antibiotics and pain relievers can lead to an unexpected allergic reaction.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Abortion procedures almost always result in some painful cramping and discomfort. For some women the cramps can be especially severe and may require you to take time off work or school.
  • Infection, Fever, Nausea, and Other Side Effects: Abortion procedures can have numerous other secondary side effects like infection, fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and more.
Do you provide abortion services or refer to abortion providers?

We do not provide or refer for abortions, but we do offer support and valuable education about abortion procedures.

What Are the Mental Risks of Abortion?

Along with physical risks, abortion can also lead to mental and psychological side-effects. Some of the most common psychological effects of abortion include:

  • Mild to severe depression.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Feelings of grief or loss.
  • Insecurity over your decision.
  • Relationship problems with your significant other or family members, especially if they encouraged you to go through with the abortion.
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Counseling or support before and after an abortion is very important. Family help and support is very important, but the woman may need additional help if the feelings that appear after an abortion become more intense. Talking with a professional counselor before having an abortion can help a woman better understand her decision and the feelings she may experience after the procedure. If counseling is available to the woman, these feelings may be easier to handle.

Remember, it is a woman’s right to be fully informed by her doctor prior to any procedure. Please be encouraged to ask questions.

We are here for you to help you process though this information and answer any questions you have. While we don’t provide or refer for abortions, we have valuable information that may be helpful to you as you consider this option. At Athens Pregnancy Center, you can explore all your options with a non-judgmental, caring Client Advocate and receive a free lab-certified pregnancy test and limited ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy. Our staff is trained to help you discover the resources, support and information that are important to you.

Can anyone (including my parents or the father of the baby) force me to have an abortion?

No one can force you to have an abortion. An attempt to do so is actually illegal. It is your choice and the abortion can only be performed if you consent. Even if someone drives you to an abortion clinic demanding that you have an abortion, if you tell the abortion clinic’s office staff that you do not want to have an abortion, they legally cannot perform it. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to give us a call or you can also visit http://thejusticefoundation.org to find resources to help you in this situation.

Georgia Department of Human Resources. (n.d.). Abortion: A Woman’s Right to Know.

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Athens Pregnancy Center does NOT refer for or perform abortions.


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