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Elective Surgical Abortion

Elective Surgical Abortion

Alternate Names

  • induced abortion
  • interruption of pregnancy


When a woman chooses to end a pregnancy before the child is ready to be born, it is called an abortion. The unborn child may be removed from the woman's uterus using one of two methods:
  • elective medical abortion,, or
  • elective surgical abortion.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Any woman who chooses to end a pregnancy for health or personal reasons is a candidate for an elective abortion. Abortions are legal in the United States during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that, the legality of abortion is regulated by each state.

How is the procedure performed?

Before doing an abortion, a healthcare professional should confirm that the woman is pregnant as well as the approximate age of the unborn child. A pelvic exam might be done to check the size of the uterus. Lab studies will rule out anemia, determine the woman's Rh factor, and screen for sexually transmitted infections.
The healthcare professional should offer information about the procedure used. Psychological support should be given as needed. Some of the options for surgical abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy are:
  • Dilation and evacuation, also called D&E. This procedure involves opening the cervix and suctioning out the unborn child and placenta. The cervix can be opened with a series of narrow rods called dilators. Or it can be opened with an absorbent fiber rod such as a laminaria.
  • Dilation and curettage, also called D&C. In this procedure, a narrow tube is inserted into the uterus through the dilated cervix. The unborn child and placenta are suctioned out. Then the lining of the uterus is scraped out with a tool called a curette.
Some of the options for surgical abortions after 14 to 15 weeks of pregnancy include the following:
  • A D&E or a D&C can be done. These are much the same as the procedures described for first trimester pregnancies. However, because the unborn child is larger, the clinician may use a curette and forceps.
  • Prostaglandin, urea, or a highly concentrated saline or salt solution can be injected into the amniotic fluid around the baby. The woman goes into labor a few hours later, and the unborn child is expelled.

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