Abortion methods are usually categorized on the basis of the age of gestation i.e. how far along the pregnancy has progressed. Early abortion refers to an abortion that is carried out in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Since it is quite early in the pregnancy, the risks are very low, the abortion methods are simple and inexpensive (will differ from clinic to clinic), and the physical recovery time is minimal. If you have found out that you are pregnant and you plan on terminating the pregnancy, then early abortion is the best option for you if the pregnancy is discovered soon enough.
What’s the Earliest You Can Have an Early Abortion?
If a pregnancy is unwanted, waiting can be excruciating. Most women who decide they want an early abortion just want it to be done as soon as possible so that they can put it behind them and move on with their lives. Sometimes choosing to get an abortion can be a tough decision to make and it is easier to cope with if the abortion can be done immediately.
An early abortion can be done as soon as you find out you are pregnant. If the pregnancy test detects that you are pregnant, then an early abortion can be conducted without a problem. Most women do not know they are pregnant till they are at least four to six weeks into the pregnancy, and only then do they go get an abortion. This may be the reason for the common misconception that you have to wait to be four to six weeks pregnant before getting an early abortion. But if it’s been about four weeks since your last period – which technically translates into just two weeks of actual pregnancy – then you can safely consider an early abortion.
Early Abortion Methods
The methods of abortion are classified into two types – medical or non-surgical abortion and surgical abortion. In the case of early abortions, both surgical and non-surgical abortion methods may be used to terminate the pregnancy. Medical or non-surgical abortion is not possible in the later stages of pregnancy; then, surgical abortion is the only viable option.
Medical/Non-surgical Abortion Method
If you find out you are pregnant early on – between four and seven weeks – your doctor will recommend the abortion pill. This is a non-surgical method of abortion that is safe and 98% effective. A medical abortion can be successful right up to the 9th week of pregnancy. You will, of course, have to go for a follow-up about a week after taking the abortion pill to ascertain that the early abortion has worked with a blood test or an ultrasound. If the medial early abortion was unsuccessful, a surgical early abortion method will be used to properly terminate the pregnancy.
This early abortion method involves taking two pills to induce an early abortion. The first pill is called mifepristone. This is sometimes administered at the family planning clinic or hospital. You will be sent home after this. The mifepristone is actually a progesterone-inhibitor. A pregnancy needs progesterone 24/7 to continue. Without the progesterone, the lining of the uterine wall will start to break down. The embryo is attached to the wall. So this terminates the pregnancy. You may experience some bleeding or spotting as this is happening. But there is one more step to this early abortion method.
The second pill – misorpostol – is taken between 48 and 72 hours of taking the mifepristone. Your doctor will advise you on exactly when you need to take the misoprostol. This pill will cause uterine cramping that will expel the contents of the pregnancy from the uterus. The pain from the cramping can be likened to period pain, but the intensity will differ from woman to woman and over-the-counter medication is prescribed to manage the pain. Do not take just any medication as it may have adverse side effects during the abortion like excessive bleeding. Speak to your doctor about a safe pain-management medication you can take during this early abortion method. The bleeding may be accompanied by some clotting. This is nothing to worry about as the clotting is your body’s way of ejecting the pregnancy.
A little bleeding or spotting after this early abortion method can sometimes last up to a month. This too is normal and no one can predict how long bleeding will last for each woman. While you can safely use tampons after a medical early abortion, it is better to use sanitary pads because it is easier to understand how much bleeding is occurring this way.
Surgical Abortion Method
Vacuum aspiration is the best surgical early abortion method. It is viable and effective up to 12 weeks of the pregnancy. This is a simple early abortion procedure that involves a canula – a thin tube with a suction pump at the end – inserted in the uterus through the cervix and used to literally vacuum out the uterine lining and thus the embryo that is implanted on it. This is an efficient, low-cost, minimally invasive early abortion method that is favored by doctors and patients alike. Vacuum aspiration can be done from the 7th to the 12th week of pregnancy, sometimes even up to the 15th week at the doctors discretion.
Most women prefer to undergo vacuum aspiration because it is quicker than taking an abortion pill. The most appealing part of this early abortion method is that it terminates the pregnancy easily and promptly without delay. The actual abortion itself only takes 5 to 10 minutes, and you can leave the clinic after about an hour and get on with your day.
How Much Does Early Abortion Cost?
The price of early abortion will differ on the basis of where you are getting your early abortion done (family planning clinic, private clinic, government hospital) and the early abortion methods that you have opted for. The cost can range dramatically so it is impossible to even give an approximate sum. If you have insurance, check if your package will cover early abortion. Usually, early abortion is cheaper in government hospitals or clinics since they have special subsidized schemes for early abortion.
However, early abortion will definitely be cheaper than abortion in the later stages of pregnancy since there is very little procedure and follow-up involved. Even the surgical early abortion methods do not require much in the way of equipment, and there’s no anesthesia and anesthesiologist to pay for either. So if money is an issue, then it would be better to get your abortion done early on to save some cash.
Do These Early Abortions Methods Hurt?
In most cases, no. According to research, pain during early abortion has more to do with the patient’s state of mind than anything else i.e. the more worried, anxious or guilty the patient feels, the greater the pain or cramping she will experience during and after her early abortion. It may affect her recovery too.
With medical early abortion, you may feel a little more worried since you are at home and this may magnify your pain. That is why it is usually recommended that you have a loved one with you when you have your early abortion. The emotional support can help you better cope with discomfort and/or pain.
While the procedures themselves do not hurt, you may experience slight discomfort during the vacuum aspiration as the pregnancy is suctioned from the uterus. The sound of the machine might also increase your apprehension and thus your discomfort, in the same way that a dentist’s drill makes you queasy and tense and makes a routine dental procedure hurt more than it should.
Is Early Abortion Safe?
An abortion is anyway a very safe and routine procedure today. And early abortion methods especially are quite safe for the following reasons:
- The earlier in the pregnancy you do an abortion, the lower the risk. With early abortion, the risk practically drops to zero.
- Early abortion methods are minimally invasive. The abortion pill is not invasive at all while the vacuum aspiration method of early abortion requires no more than a slight dilation of the cervix. The less invasive an early abortion procedure, the fewer the risks associated with it.
- There are no cuts or incisions with early abortion methods. Cuts and nicks account for 1% of all complications arising from abortions. Since no incisions are made, this factor does not even figure into the early abortion equation; you thus do not have to worry about the risks associated with them.
- Anesthesia is not required for early abortion. It’s usually the anesthesia that can mess up any routine surgical procedure.
Risks of Early Abortion
Although early abortion methods are the safest of all abortion methods, there is no 100% guarantee that nothing will go wrong. Following are some of the risks that are associated with early abortion methods.
- If you have a pre-existing health condition, complications may arise. That is why it is important to truthfully and accurately reveal your medical history to the doctor over-seeing or conducting your early abortion.
- You may also have an adverse reaction to the abortion pill.
- The abortion pill may not work, thus leaving you with an incomplete abortion. Thus, more time and money is spent undergoing vacuum aspiration to successfully terminate the pregnancy.
- In rare, rare cases, an early abortion can leave you more susceptible to uterine and cervical infection. This is the reason you are given antibiotics when undergoing early abortion. If the incomplete abortion is not taken care of or parts of the pregnancy are still left in the uterus, it can cause adverse health problems.
However, rest assured that complications arise in less than .01% of all abortion methods, and only a fraction of this minute number account for early abortion complications. If you get your early abortion done by a qualified doctor in a hygienic clinic with capable medical staff at hand, if you are open about your medical history and let the doctor know about any medication you might be taking, and if you are properly screened for known health conditions that might complicate an early abortion, you really have nothing to worry about.
When To Call Your Doctor
As mentioned before, early abortion methods are safe and more than 99% of the women undergoing early abortion have no adverse side effects or problems. However, there is still that tiny less than 1% that have indeed experienced some drawbacks with their early abortions. And a fraction of these 1% cases result in death. Following are some of the symptoms that you should look out for that indicate that something has gone wrong with your early abortion.
- Nausea or vomiting more than two days after of taking the misoprostol in the case of medical early abortion
- High fever that lasts more than 4 to 5 hours
- Recurring, very large blood clots the size of huge lemons
- Excessive bleeding where you are soaking two pads in two hours
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Period like cramps or stomach pain that is very intense and does not go away despite pain medication, resting, and other conventional methods of pain management like using a hot water bottle
You should be given a hot-line number after your early abortion that you can call 24/7. Keep this handy and do not hesitate to call if you see any of the above signs. If the nurse on the other end of the line can reasonably explain your symptoms and you feel better, that’s great. But if you still have a gut feeling that something is wring or you are not entirely convinced, you have a right to insist on seeing a doctor immediately.