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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Surgeries and Procedures > Elective Surgical Abortion

Elective Surgical Abortion

Alternate Names : Induced Abortion, Interruption of Pregnancy

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Home Care and Complications

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

  • elective medical abortion
  • elective surgical abortion, which is the subject of this article
  • A surgical abortion is a medical procedure that takes an embryo or fetus from the uterus before it is able to live on its own. An abortion may be termed elective, because it is a chosen course of action, rather than a naturally occurring bodily process. (A naturally occurring abortion is also known as spontaneous.) Sometimes, an abortion is called therapeutic. This means it is a treatment used to protect the health of the woman. That is, to continue the pregnancy would endanger the woman's health.

    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 doctor will confirm that the woman is pregnant as well as the approximate age of the fetus. 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 diseases. The doctor 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 contents of the uterus. 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 uterine contents 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 fetus is larger, the doctor 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 fetus. The woman goes into labor a few hours later, and the fetus is expelled.


    Next section


    Elective Surgical Abortion: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 08/22/01

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