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You’re pregnant!

These 2 words can raise all sorts of emotions in a woman! At first there may be sheer amazement followed by questioning fear or even bewilderment. Sometimes all of these types of feelings raise up at the same time. Then, once the initial shock is over, many women begin asking “What next?” Partners, friends, family, counselors, even co-workers may help provide support in answering this question. Ultimately there are those who decide that this is not the right time to begin a family, and choose to investigate ending their pregnancy by termination.

In 2005, 1.21 million abortions were performed in the US. In NY State, 1 out of 3 pregnant women terminated their pregnancies. Abortion is a safe and effective option for many situations. In NY not only is it often covered by MEDICAID but you don’t even need your parent’s or partner’s permission. However, even though it is a legal procedure, finding a provider may be challenging in different parts of the country. When available, services are usually offered by abortion clinics, hospitals or private medical settings. The methods used today for performing an abortion consist of either pills or surgery. The availability of these methods depends on how far or how many weeks the woman is into her pregnancy.

Medical abortion is also known as: RU486, the abortion pill, nonsurgical abortion or medication abortion. It is commonly only offered in the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. Most facilities give two different medications to complete this method. The first one is given in the office and stops the pregnancy from growing. The second medication is taken a few hours to days later. This is the one that causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy. Symptoms can be similar to a woman who’s having a miscarriage. Bleeding, cramping and nausea are expected parts of the process. However, if you take your temperature and find a fever or have bleeding that soaks more than 2 pads in an hour for 2 hours, this is not normal. You should contact your provider or possibly go to the nearest emergency room. Otherwise, expect to return to your provider’s office in the next week or two so that they can verify that the pregnancy has ended.

The other method of performing abortion is known as the surgical abortion, aspiration abortion, suction abortion, vacuum abortion or even D&C. Unlike the medical abortion, this option is still available to women who are past 7 weeks. Check with each facility to find out their cutoff points. This procedure itself is quick (5 to 10 minutes), and performed under the supervision of medical professionals. Although some women experience cramping, bleeding or lightheadedness, it is for much less time than the medical abortion. Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with it simply because it is surgery. Yes, despite this being a surgical procedure, expect to be able to return to activities, like work, the next day. Finally, a check-up is generally scheduled for 2 weeks later.

Studies show that both methods are about 99% successful when done properly; and neither have been shown to alter a women’s chances of getting pregnant or carrying a baby in the future. Now, although the information discussed here is basic, it is not intended to over simplify the importance of this decision. Let’s face it, “I’m pregnant” clearly doesn’t feel basic. It is a very personal, emotional time in a woman’s life. Like many decisions in life, it is not always easy to make the right choice. So, call on health care providers or your support persons. Have your questions answered. Realize the power you do have in ultimately deciding what’s next.

Dr. Lisa McLeod