Types of Abortions

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Actual fetus at seven weeks gestational age.
Actual fetus at seven weeks gestational age.

There are five types of abortions that can end a pregnancy. The doctor will determine the best type of abortion to perform based upon the date of the woman's last menstrual cycle. If it is still early enough in the pregnancy, an abortion can be completed with the use of a pill rather than the older, more invasive procedures.

History

The first known evidence of induced abortions being practiced dates back as early as the fifth century. This is when a method called massage abortions were used. This method was commonly practiced by Egyptians in 1550 B.C., aborting the fetus through the use of abdominal pressure, herbs and in some instances, sharpened objects. Between 500 and 515 B.C., Chinese Royalty were documented as practicing abortions as well. It is said in folklore that Shenong, a Chinese leader, prescribed mercury as a way of inducing abortions.

Significance

There are some types of abortions that can be performed with minimal amounts of discomfort to the mother, while others require that the mother receive a local anesthetic before the abortion is performed. Abortions can be done as soon as the mother discovers she is pregnant right through until the fetus is full term. However, the longer a mother waits to have an abortion, the higher her risks for complications and infection.

Actual fetus at seven weeks gestational age.
Actual fetus at seven weeks gestational age.

Types

The are five methods used when performing an abortion. The first is called Manual Vacuum Aspiration and can be used early in the pregnancy. The doctor inserts a thin tube into the woman's uterus and sucks the embryo out with the syringe attached at the end of the tube. The second, Suction Curettage, is the most common kind of abortion and can be performed later in the pregnancy. The doctor must stretch the cervix with rods, due to the size of the baby, and then inserts a plastic tube that is connected to a suction machine. Once inserted, the baby's body is and suctioned out in pieces. The third is called Dilation and Evacuation and is considered a second trimester abortion. At this stage, the baby is too big to be broken apart by only the use of suction. Seaweed rods are inserted into the woman a day or two before the procedure to stretch her cervix. The doctor will use forceps to pull the fetus out of the woman. A looped knife called a curette is used to scrape remaining fetal parts out of the woman's body. The fourth method is called a Dilation and Extraction, and can be through full term. This procedure takes three days, and during the first two, seaweed rods are used again to stretch the cervix. The doctor will then use an ultrasound to locate the baby's legs, taking them with forceps and pulling every part out with the exception of its head. He will then make a cut into the baby's skull, suctioning out its brains which, makes it easier to pull the baby out of the woman's body. Finally, there is the development of RU 486, an abortion pill. Early in her pregnancy, a woman is given a pill in the doctor's office to abort the embryo and is sent home with 2 to 3 pills to be inserted vaginally. This will induce stomach cramps and expel the embryo.

Actual hand of a developing fetus at twelve weeks.
Actual hand of a developing fetus at twelve weeks.

Time Frame

Manual Vacuum Aspiration can be used up to seven weeks after the last menstrual period. Suction Curettage can be performed from six to fourteen weeks after the last period. Dilation and Evacuation is used between thirteen and twenty-four weeks, and Dilation and Extraction is performed from twenty weeks of gestation through full term. The abortion pill, RU 486, can be used up to the 49th day of pregnancy.

Actual fetus at twenty weeks of gestation.
Actual fetus at twenty weeks of gestation.

Warning

One out of 100 hundred women who have an early abortion develop severe health problems, while 1 of 50 who have a late-term abortion develop these issues. They include heavy bleeding requiring a blood transfusion, damage to internal organs such as the bowel and bladder, sepsis, a total body infection, that can be fatal, and scarring of the uterine lining from the use of tubes and sharp objects, which could result in an inability to conceive and/or carry a baby in the future.

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