Types of Abortion Procedures



The type of abortion procedure used in elective pregnancy termination is primarily determined by how far a woman is into pregnancy. During the first trimester, you will usually have the option of having a medical termination or a surgical termination. Before considering the various abortion procedures, it is recommended that you obtain a sonogram to determine if the pregnancy is viable (uterine, non-ectopic pregnancy) and for accurate pregnancy dating or gestation. Call the Helpline toll-free at 1-866-942-6466 to discuss your questions about abortion.

What abortion procedures are used during the first trimester?

In most cases, you will have a choice between medical or surgical abortion procedures during the first trimester. Medical terminations are only available up through nine weeks gestation. The types of abortion procedures performed during the first trimester are:

  • Methotrexate & Misoprostol (MTX): a medical abortion procedure used up to the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
  • Mifepristone and Misoprostol: a medical abortion procedure used up to the first seven to nine weeks of pregnancy. It is also referred to as RU-486, the abortion pill and Mifeprex.
  • Suction Aspiration: a surgical abortion procedure used to terminate pregnancy between 6 to 12 weeks gestation. It is also referred to as suction curettage or vacuum aspiration.

What abortion procedures are used during the second trimester?

Medication based abortion procedures are not an option during the second trimester. The types of abortion procedures performed during the second trimester are:

  • Dilation & Curettage (D & C): a surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy between 13 to 15 weeks gestation. It is also referred to as suction curettage or vacuum aspiration.
  • Dilation & Evacuation (D & E): a surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy between 15 to 21 weeks gestation.
  • Induction Abortion: a rarely performed surgical procedure where salt water, urea, or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic sac; prostaglandins are inserted into the vagina and pitocin is injected intravenously.

What abortion procedures are used during the third trimester?

Medication based abortion procedures are not an option during the third trimester. The surgical types of abortion procedures performed during the third trimester are:

  • Induction Abortion: a rarely done surgical procedure where salt water, urea, or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic sac; prostaglandins are inserted into the vagina and pitocin is injected intravenously.
  • Dilation and Extraction: a surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy after 21 weeks of gestation. This procedure is also known as D & X, Intact D & X, Intrauterine Cranial Decompression and Partial Birth Abortion.

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Creinin MD, et al. (2001). Medical management of abortion. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Practice Bulletin, no. 26, pg.1-13.

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Stewart GK (1998). Intrauterine devices. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 17th rev.ed., pp.511-544. New York: Ardent Media.

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Last Updated: 05/2016

Last updated: 01/2017