Beth Walsh, MA
Therapeutic abortion is the ending of a pregnancy on purpose. A medical abortion is done by taking medications. This procedure is done in early pregnancy. It can be done up to 8 weeks.
This process is not the same as emergency contraception. An abortion ends an established pregnancy. Emergency contraception helps prevent pregnancy.
A therapeutic abortion may be done to:
Complications are rare. But, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have an abortion, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. These may include:
A medical abortion is unsuccessful about 5%-10% of the time. If the abortion was not complete, you may need more medication or a surgical abortion to end the pregnancy.
It is best to do the procedure as early in the pregnancy as possible. This decreases the chance of 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:
No anesthesia will be used.
The process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. The amount of time depends on the specific medications used.
Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can reduce most of these symptoms. Do not take aspirin unless directed to by your doctor.
After a therapeutic abortion:
Sudden hormone changes may increase natural feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, and regret. Most doctors can offer or refer you to follow-up counseling.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing or you develop complications such as:
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
Induced abortion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115505/Induced-abortion. Updated June 22, 2016. Accessed Accessed December 28, 2016.
Medical abortion procedures. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/medical-abortions/. Updated September 3, 2016. Accessed December 28, 2016.
Abortion services. Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region website. Available at:
http://www.rqhealth.ca/womens-and-childrens-health/therapeutic-abortion. Accessed December 28, 2016.
What is medical abortion? National Abortion Federation website. Available at:
http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/medical_abortion.html. Accessed December 28, 2016.
1/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115505/Induced-abortion: 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 December 2016 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
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