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You’ll go to a health center for counseling, an exam, and the abortion. The abortion itself usually takes 5-10 minutes, and you’ll get medicine to help with any pain.

What do I need to do before my in-clinic abortion procedure?

Before your abortion, you’ll meet with your nurse, doctor, or health center counselor to talk about whether abortion is the right decision for you, and what your abortion options are.  You’ll get an exam and lab tests, and may get an ultrasound to figure out how far into your pregnancy you are.

Your nurse or doctor will let you know if there’s anything else you need to do to prepare for your abortion. They’ll give you written instructions on how to care for yourself after your abortion and how to take any medication they give you. You’ll also get a number you can call 24/7 if you have any questions or concerns.

You’ll probably have some bleeding and cramping after your abortion. So plan ahead to make your recovery time more comfortable. Give yourself the rest of the day to relax. Have maxi pads ready, and a heating pad for cramps in case you need it. Make sure you have some pain medication like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) — but don’t take aspirin because it can make you bleed more.

How do abortions work?

Suction abortion is the most common kind of abortion procedure.

Before your abortion, you’ll get pain medicine to  help with cramping. You may be able to get sedation during the abortion. With some kinds of sedation, you’re awake but super relaxed, and with others you are completely asleep. You’ll also get antibiotics to help prevent infections.

A nurse or doctor may give you medication to help open your cervix before your abortion. Sometimes they also put small dilator sticks called laminaria into the opening of your cervix a day or a few hours before your procedure. The laminaria absorb fluid from your body and get bigger, which slowly stretches your cervix open.

In the procedure room, there will be a staff person there to help the doctor or nurse and support you during your abortion.  

During a suction abortion procedure, the doctor or nurse will:

  • examine your uterus

  • put a speculum in to see into your vagina

  • inject a numbing medication into or near your cervix

  • stretch the opening of your cervix with a series of dilating rods if you haven’t had them put in earlier

  • insert a thin tube through your cervix into your uterus

  • use a small, hand-held suction device or suction machine to gently take the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus

  • they may also use a small surgical tool called a curette to remove any tissue that’s left in your uterus, or check to make sure your uterus is totally empty.  

Once your abortion is over, you’ll hang out in a recovery area until you feel better and are ready to leave.

This type of abortion only takes about 5 to 10 minutes. But your appointment will take longer because you’ll need to have an exam, read and sign forms, and stay in the recovery room afterwards for up to about an hour.

Thinking about birth control? You can get an implant, shot, or prescription for birth control while you’re there. Some doctors, abortion clinics, and Planned Parenthood health centers can put an IUD in your uterus right after your abortion, during the same procedure.

What happens during a D&E (dilation and evacuation) procedure?

D&E is usually used for abortions later than 16 weeks after your last period. Before a D&E abortion, your nurse or doctor will prepare your cervix. This means you may get medication that helps open your cervix. Your doctor might also put small, dilator sticks called laminaria into the opening of your cervix a day or a few hours before the procedure. The laminaria absorb fluid from your body and get bigger, which slowly stretches your cervix open.

For later second-trimester abortions, you may also need a shot through your abdomen (belly) before the procedure starts.

Before your abortion, you’ll get pain medicine to  help with cramping. You may be able to get sedation during the abortion. With some kinds of sedation, you’re awake but super relaxed, and with others you are completely asleep. You’ll also get antibiotics to help prevent infections.

Once you’re in the procedure room, there will be a staff member there to help the doctor and support you during the abortion.

During a D&E abortion, the doctor or nurse will:

  • examine your uterus

  • put a speculum in to see into your vagina

  • inject a numbing medication into or near your cervix

  • stretch the opening of your cervix with a serious of dilating rods

  • insert a thin tube through your cervix into your uterus

  • use a combination of medical tools and a suction device to gently take the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus

Once the procedure is done, you’ll hang out in a recovery area until you feel better and are ready to leave.

A D&E procedure usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes. But your appointment will take longer because you’ll need to have an exam, read and sign forms, get your cervix prepared, and stay in the recovery room afterwards for up to about an hour.

If you’re interested in getting birth control, ask about getting an implant, IUD, shot, or prescription for another kind of birth control while you’re there. 

Does an abortion hurt?

Having an abortion feels different for everyone — it can be super painful or just a little uncomfortable. Your level of discomfort can depend on the medications you get, how far into your pregnancy you are, and how much cramping and pain you have. For most people, it feels like strong period cramps.

Your doctors and nurses will help make your abortion as comfortable as possible. You’ll get pain and numbing medications that will make it hurt less and you may get sedation.

You may have a little cramping after your abortion. You’ll probably want to take it easy for a while afterward, but most people are back to normal the next day.

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