How Abortion Works

How Abortion Works

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If you just found out you’re unexpectedly pregnant, you probably have a lot on your mind. Digging your way past all the emotions, the panic, and the fear takes some time, but you can do it. Once you’ve found some calm, it’s time to look at your options.

If you’re considering an abortion, it’s best to be fully informed and understand that there are different types of procedures, depending on how far along you are in the pregnancy. It’s also important that you know how abortion works.

The Abortion Pill

The abortion pill, used until 10 weeks pregnant, is actually a combination of two pills taken separately. The first pill, mifepristone, blocks progesterone in your body and is given at the Abortion Provider’s office. Two days later you’ll take the second pill, prostaglandin or misoprostol. After taking the second pill, you’ll experience cramping and bleeding. This can last for several hours. Signs that require immediate follow up care would include heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain, or fever. (1)

Within 1-2 weeks you’ll follow up at the Provider’s Office to make sure the abortion was completed. This is usually done with an ultrasound. If you’re still pregnant, then you’ll need to have a surgical abortion.

Surgical Abortion Procedures

Aside from the abortion pill, there are several different surgical abortion procedures. Which one is performed depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy.

First Trimester Abortions, such as Suction Aspiration or Suction Curettage, can be done up to 12 weeks after the last menstrual period. Dilation and Evacuation is a second trimester abortion and can be done between 13 to 21 weeks of pregnancy. These various types of procedures are somewhat similar, but take different lengths of time, depending how far along your pregnancy is. A suction machine is used to remove the fetus. Surgical abortion procedures require that the cervix be softened.  Medication, dilation rods, or a special dilator known as laminaria will be used to open the cervix. General anesthetic or sedation will be offered depending on how many weeks gestation you are. (2)

Late-term abortion, from 20 weeks up to 24 weeks, takes three to four days to complete, using a few different drugs for different stages of the abortion, and ends in vaginal delivery.

After the abortion is completed, you’ll experience period-like symptoms. This bleeding may last up to 2 weeks as well some occasional cramping as the uterus contracts and returns to normal.

Pre-Abortion Testing

When you’re considering any abortion procedure decision, call or make an appointment at Thrive St. Louis. Our team of medical staff and advocates offers unbiased information in a caring, non-judgmental environment.

Come for a no-cost, lab-grade pregnancy test. If it comes back positive, we will provide an ultrasound exam at no charge to you in order to confirm the pregnancy is viable and not an ectopic pregnancy. We’ll also tell you how far along you are in your pregnancy, review your options and provide various resources for you.

STD/STI testing is also important for those considering abortion. Having an abortion procedure with an untreated STI can result in pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to potential future reproductive health problems, pelvic pain, and even possibly infertility. (3 & 4)

Get answers at Thrive

At Thrive St. Louis, our caring medical professionals and advocates make sure you have all the information you need, the space to ask questions, an environment where you are empowered, and a place where you can be confident in your decisions.

Contact us today to come meet with an advocate, nurse, and/or sonographer.


  1. Department of Health and Senior Services. Missouri’s Informed Consent Booklet, 2015. Page 14.  Online at
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine Ugeskr Laeger. 1992 Oct 26;154(44):3047-53.