What facts about abortion do I need to know?
Abortion is a very safe way to end a pregnancy. Here are the facts about the different kinds of abortion and what to expect.
Is abortion legal?
It depends on where you live. Some states have banned abortion or created lots of restrictions. But abortion is still legal in many states, and it's legal to go to a different state to get an abortion.
You can find more information about laws in your state and how to get an abortion at AbortionFinder.org.
If abortion is legal in your state, or if you're traveling to another state where abortion is legal, there may still be other laws that affect you if you're under 18. The exact rules are different in different places. Find information on your state.
What are the different kinds of abortion?
Medication abortion — also called the “abortion pill” — is when you take medicines to end an early pregnancy, up to 11 weeks after the first day of your last period.
In-clinic abortion is generally a fast and simple procedure that a trained doctor or nurse does in a health center.
Both kinds of abortion are safe and effective.
Here are some first trimester abortion facts:
How does abortion work?
A doctor or nurse uses medical instruments and gentle suction to take the pregnancy out of your uterus through your vagina.
You take pills that end your pregnancy and cause cramping and bleeding so the pregnancy tissue comes out of your uterus through your vagina. It’s like an early miscarriage.
There are two ways to have a medication abortion using pills. You can use two medicines: mifepristone and misoprostol. Or you can use misoprostol alone.
How well does abortion work?
It works more than 99% of the time.
Taking mifepristone and misoprostol together works about 87-99% of the time — depending on how far along the pregnancy is and how many doses of misoprostol you take.
Taking both mifepristone and misoprostol works a bit better than taking misoprostol only.
Taking misoprostol alone works to end the pregnancy about 85-95% of the time — depending on how far along the pregnancy is and how you take the medicine.
If a medication abortion doesn’t work, you can take more medicine or have an in-clinic procedure.
How long does the abortion take?
The procedure usually takes about 10 minutes, but the full visit usually takes a few hours. Some states have laws that say you must come to the health center for a separate visit before the abortion. Abortions later in pregnancy may take longer and you may need more visits to the health center.
Your appointment will look different depending on the state you live in and whether your appointment is in-person or virtual. In some states you’re required to come for multiple visits and it may take up to a few hours. In other states it may be a fairly quick video visit and then you pick up your pills at a pharmacy or have them mailed to you.
If you’re using mifepristone and misoprostol together, you’ll take the pills at the same time or up to 2 days apart, depending on your situation.
If you’re using misoprostol only, you’ll take 3-4 doses of pills, 3 hours apart.
Most people finish passing the pregnancy tissue 4-5 hours after taking misoprostol, but it can take longer. The abortion will usually be finished within 24 hours after you take the last dose of pills.
You can have a follow up visit or phone call to make sure everything is going well, but you’ll also get a special pregnancy test you can take at home to make sure the abortion worked.
Is abortion safe?
Both in-clinic and medication abortions are very safe. In fact, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures out there — it has a lower complication rate than other common medical procedures, like getting your wisdom teeth pulled. And abortion pills are safer than medicines like penicillin, Tylenol, and Viagra.
Abortion is also very common: About 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old.
You can count on Planned Parenthood for expert, quality sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. We regularly review new medical research and get updates from groups like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Serious problems after an abortion are very rare. But like any medicine or medical procedure, there are some risks. Learn more about the risks of in-clinic abortion and the risks of the abortion pill.
How will I feel after having an abortion?
You’ll get written after-care instructions and a phone number you can call if you have any questions or concerns. You may have to come back for a check up or lab work after your abortion.
Plan on resting after your abortion. You can usually go back to work, school and most other normal activities the next day. Avoid hard work or heavy exercise for a few days. You can use pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup for any bleeding — whatever's the most comfortable for you. But your nurse or doctor may tell you to use pads so you can track how much you're bleeding. You can have sex as soon as you feel ready.
Most people feel fine within a day or two, but it’s common for bleeding to last for a week (or several weeks after the abortion pill). Cramping can happen for a few days.
It’s totally normal to have a lot of different emotions after your abortion. Everyone’s experience is different, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel. Most people are relieved and don’t regret their decision. Others may feel sadness, guilt, or regret after an abortion. Lots of people have all these feelings at different times. These feelings aren’t unique to having an abortion. People feel many different emotions after giving birth, too.
It’s rare to have serious, long-term effects on your mental health after an abortion. But everybody’s different, and certain things can make coping with an abortion hard — like if you had to have an abortion for health reasons, or you didn’t have support.
Most people feel better if they have someone supportive to talk to after an abortion. But even if you don’t think there’s anybody in your life you can talk with, you’re not alone. Your nurse or doctor can talk with you, or help you find a licensed counselor or a non-judgmental support group. You can also call Exhale or All-Options, free after-abortion talklines. They will give you confidential and non-judgmental emotional support after your abortion — no matter how you’re feeling. For spiritual support before, during, or after an abortion, check out Abortions Welcome.
Will an abortion affect my health?
Abortion is safe. Unless there’s a rare and serious complication that’s not treated, there’s no risk to your overall health or your ability to have healthy pregnancies in the future. Having an abortion doesn’t increase your risk for cancer, and it doesn’t cause depression or mental health issues. Abortions don’t cause infertility either. In fact, it’s possible to get pregnant quickly after you have an abortion. So it’s a good idea to talk to your nurse or doctor about a birth control plan for after your abortion.
There are many myths out there about abortion. The nurses and doctors at Planned Parenthood can give you accurate information about any concerns you have.