Beth Walsh, MA
Therapeutic abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. It is done before the fetus is able to survive on its own. A surgical therapeutic abortion is done using 1 of 3 methods:
A therapeutic abortion may be done to:
These procedures are safe. But, no procedure is free of risk. Problems resulting from abortion can include:
The earlier in a pregnancy the abortion is done, the better the chances of a procedure with no complications.
If you think you might be pregnant, see your doctor. The earlier you find out, the more time you have to make an informed choice about the pregnancy. Early symptoms of pregnancy include:
Your doctor may:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to 1 week before the procedure
Local anesthesia with sedation may be used. The local anesthesia will numb the cervix. Sedation will help you relax. In some cases,
may be used.
You may be given an antibiotic before the procedure.
The doctor may inject a numbing agent in or near the cervix. Special tools will be used to stretch the cervix opening. A tube will be inserted into the uterus. The tube will then remove the fetus and other products of conception.
The steps for an MVA will be followed. The doctor will then use a narrow metal loop to remove the tissue lining the uterine walls.
This procedure is similar to a D&C, except that it is done during the second trimester. It will also require wider dilation of the cervix. The fetus and other products of conception are removed from the uterus with medical instruments and suction. This usually requires regional or general anesthesia.
About 5-20 minutes
Women report cramps similar to menstrual cramps. Talk to your doctor about medicine to help manage discomfort.
can reduce most of these symptoms. Do not take
unless directed to by your doctor.
After a therapeutic abortion:
Sudden hormone changes may intensify natural feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, and regret. Most doctors can offer or refer you to follow-up counseling, if you choose.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Abortion. Planned Parenthood website. Available at:
https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion. Accessed March 24, 2016.
Induced abortion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed March 24, 2016.
Surgical abortion. The Abortion Clinic Directory website. Available at:
http://www.abortionclinic.org/topics/articles/article_99.asp. Accessed March 24, 2016.
The Women’s Health Centre: therapeutic abortion. Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region website. Available at:
http://www.rqhealth.ca/womens-and-childrens-health/therapeutic-abortion. Accessed March 24, 2016.
1/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Robson SC, Kelly T, Deverill M, et al. Randomised preference trial of medical versus surgical termination of pregnancy less than 14 weeks' gestation (TOPS).
Health Technol Assess. 2009;13(53):1-124.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
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