Choosing surgical or medical abortion

If you are thinking of having an abortion you will want to think through whether surgical or medical abortion is best for you. Here are some of the ways they differ.

Gestation age

Medical abortion is most effective in pregnancy up to 9 weeks and can be done very early in pregnancy, from 4 weeks since the first day of the last menstrual period. Surgical abortion may not work very early in the pregnancy (before 6 weeks) but can be done after 9 weeks, depending on the laws in your country.

Location

An early medical abortion can be done at home in private, whereas surgical abortion needs to occur in a health facility.

Effectiveness

A medical abortion is slightly less effective than a surgical abortion. 98 out of 100 women will have a complete abortion if they take the tablets according to the instructions, whereas 99 out of 100 women will have a complete surgical abortion.

Length of time A medical abortion can take 1-2 days to complete, with on-going spotting or bleeding for 10 – 45 days whereas a surgical abortion is completed within 10 – 15 minutes.

Process

An early medical abortion resembles a natural miscarriage. Cramps and bleeding can be more than a surgical abortion in the first few hours but it can be done without the help of a health professional. Women may experience some side-effects of the medicines used.

Surgical abortion is done by a health professional in a health care facility. Surgical abortion is done with a syringe that sucks out the contents of the uterus. This occasionally causes some injury that may need further care. Women may also experience side-effects of medicines given for controlling pain and anxiety.

Bleeding

Bleeding with medical abortion can be heavy and may last longer than with a surgical abortion.

Follow up

Follow up is only required if the medical abortion was unsuccessful. Surgical evacuation of the uterus may be required, in this instance. For surgical abortion no follow up is required. Follow up for IUD or female sterilisation will be required for both methods.

Post abortion contraception

Most hormonal methods of contraceptives can be started with the first dose of medical abortion. Insertion of IUD and female sterilisation can occur once the abortion is complete.

Almost all contraceptives can be started immediately after surgical abortion.

Contraception options after abortion

Most hormonal methods of contraception can be started with first dose of medical abortion. Insertion of IUD and female sterilisation can occur once the abortion is confirmed as complete. Almost all contraceptives can be started immediately after surgical abortion.

Contraception information

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