What happens during an abortion procedure

Abortion. What happens during an abortion procedure? How was the abortion pill developed and how does it work within the body? Does the woman getting the abortion experience any effects after the procedure is completed?


Abortion is a procedure to stop pregnancy. It may be called as an induced abortion or induced miscarriage. Sometimes, abortion occurs naturally and in such cases, it is known as miscarriage. Abortion needs to be carried during the time period when foetus is still in uterus. Almost 56 million abortions occur on an average around the globe per annum. The high number may be attributed to an increasing awareness about the requirement of family planning and to an increasing literacy rate. Also, more and more people now come forward without any useless reservations and participate in birth control.

The first abortion pill developed was Mifepristone. It was developed by a French pharmaceutical company in 1980. After a long dispute between various committees and approval authorities such as FDA, this drug won a two decade long battle and was allowed by FDA in 2000 to be used as one of the methods of early medical abortion.

Abortion procedure:-

There are various procedure via which abortion can be done. Among the common and widely accepted methods are medical, surgical and labor induced abortion. Some uncommon methods include traumatic abortion and herbal treatment.

Below is a brief description of each of these procedures:-

1.      Herbal treatment

This is an ancient method and is obsolete now a days. With the help of herbs such as Pennyroyal, which possess abortifacient properties, abortion was tried. Not only does this method have many side effects, it may even be lethal to the woman herself. Hence, this method is generally not recommended by most physicians in the modern era.

2.      Traumatic abortion

Another ancient method, this method is still applied in some parts of the world which are unaware of the modern procedures or lack the facilities or refuse to accept a change in ancient methods. Here, forceful abdominal massage is performed in an attempt to cause abortion. As is the case with herbal treatment, this method too has many side effects and is potentially lethal.

3.      Medical abortion

Medical abortions started comparatively recently in 1970's. Use of pharmaceuticals comes into picture when we talk about this method. Different pharmaceuticals are given either solely or in combination with other pharmaceuticals. Also, the time/week of pregnancy when these pharmaceuticals are administered plays a crucial role in determining the success of the procedure.

As an example, let us consider the following data:-

1.      Mifepristone + Misoprostol

2.      Methotrexate + Misoprostol

The first combination of pharmaceutical drugs is administered during early stages of pregnancy and upto the start of third month. The second combination of pharmaceutical drugs is administered from the start of pregnancy till the third week of the second month. Consulting a physician is of utmost significance when deciding the combination and timing of intake for a successful abortion. Also, this method has an almost cent percent success rate if followed properly.

4.      Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion is opted in case of failure via medical abortion method. This method is often applied before the completion of fourth month of pregnancy. As an example, there are various ways in which surgical abortion can be performed. They are:-

1.      Manual vacuum aspiration

2.      Electric vacuum aspiration

3.      Dilation and curettage

4.      Dilation and evacuation

Manual vacuum aspiration is also known as mini-suction or as menstrual extraction. It can be performed very early after pregnancy and is a safe process. The difference between this and electric vacuum aspiration lies in the method of suction application. Whereas a syringe is utilised in the former, the latter makes use of an electric pump.

Dilation and curettage method is also known as sharp curettage method. Curettage refers to cleansing of uterus. Therefore, in Dilation and curettage method, uterus is cleaned off to carry out abortion. This method is not a preferred method and is evoked only in case other methods are unavailable or cannot be applied.

All the methods described above are applied before the completion of fourth month of pregnancy. After that, dilation and evacuation method can be applied. Here, the uterus is opened up and cleaning is done with the help of suction pressure.

5.      Labor induced abortion

This process is also known as induced miscarriage. On recommendation of the doctor, this method may be carried out if medical abortion or surgical abortion are not favoured due to unavoidable circumstances or if the facilities to carry out such procedure are not available as such. Also, this method can be applied in later stages of the pregnancy, providing an alternate option to surgical abortions. However, it is a very risky process with many side effects and hence, is not generally favoured.

Side effects:-

A lot depends on the proper application of methods to avoid side effects. Naturally, more incidences of side effects are seen in under developed or developing countries instead of developed countries. Some of the side effects that might occur during the process is pelvic infection, abdominal pain, back pain, fever etc. Lack of proper facilities, untrained or uneducated caretaker, unclean surroundings, septic conditions and unclean instruments are some of the many reasons that may contribute to an unsafe abortion, ultimately leading to various side effects.

A lot of myth is associated with abortion and its supposed role in causing breast cancer or mental problems. No scientific evidence exists to prove these assumptions.

A lot of concern about the ethical aspect related to abortions has been voiced since times immemorial by the section of society that opposes this process. Such people raise their voice in support of human life and even equate abortion to murder. According to them, the foetus is also a budding human with every right to be born. On the other hand, the section of the society that supports abortion raises voice in favour of birth control and a woman's right on her own life.

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