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Health Encylopedia

 
Abortion
 
SubjectContents
Definition An abortion is a procedure, either surgical or medical, to end a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the uterus.
Alternative Names Induced abortion; Suction curettage; Surgical abortion; Medical abortion
Description A surgical abortion that is performed between 6 and 12 weeks into a pregnancy may be done while the woman is awake. She is given the option of being sedated by medications, or having her cervix numbed (local anesthesia) with an injection so that she is basically pain-free. A surgical abortion for a pregnancy over 12 weeks is usually done while the woman is sedated, although it can also be performed while the woman is awake. The cervical canal is enlarged (dilated) and a hollow tube is inserted into the uterus. A vacuum (suction) machine is used to remove the tissues (fetus and placenta) from the uterus. Medicines such as oxytocin are sometimes given to cause the uterine muscles to contract and reduce bleeding . A medical abortion for a pregnancy less than 7 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period can be safely performed using a combination of medications. The current regimen approved by the FDA includes administration of one dose of Mifepristone (RU486), an antiprogestin, followed by one dose of Misoprostol, a prostaglandin analogue two days later. These medications may be given in the doctor's office, after a thorough history and physical is performed.
Indications
  • Woman's choice to end a
  • pregnancy (elective termination)
  • Woman's health is endangered by pregnancy (therapeutic abortion)
  • An abnormality in the developing fetus (birth defect, genetic abnormality)
  • Risks Risks for any anesthesia are:
  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
  • Risks for any surgery are:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Additional risks of surgical abortion include:
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection of the uterus
  • Infection of the fallopian tubes (which can cause scarring and interfere with fertility (
  • infertility )
  • Puncture (perforation) of the uterus, or damage to the cervix (rare)
  • Emotional or psychological distress
  • Risks of medical abortion include:
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Incomplete abortion necessitating a surgical abortion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain
  • The decision to have an abortion is an intensely personal one. Most health care providers recommend competent counseling before making this decision.
    Expectations after surgery Most women who undergo surgical abortions done in appropriate medical facilities recover without any physical complications. Any significant emotional and psychological issues should be considered and addressed before and after a chosen abortion.
    Convalescence Physical recovery usually occurs within a few days, depending on the stage of the pregnancy . A small amount of vaginal bleeding and mild uterine cramping should be expected for a few days. A hot bath or use of a heating pad or hot water bottle on the abdomen may help relieve discomfort. Strenuous activity should be avoided for a few days following an abortion. Tampons may be used after 3 days. Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 2 to 3 weeks. A normal menstrual period should occur 4 to 6 weeks after the operation.