Deciding Between Pill Abortion and In-Clinic Abortion: Care Instructions

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There are two types of abortions. One type is done with medicines (pill abortion). The other is a procedure (in-clinic abortion). The best type for you may depend on things such as your past health, where you live, and how many weeks pregnant you are.

In a pill abortion, you take medicines to end the pregnancy. This may be done at home. Your doctor will explain how to take the pills. They can be taken as soon as you know that you are pregnant. These medicines usually cause bleeding and strong cramps for 3 to 5 hours. You may need to take pain medicine. After 3 to 5 hours, the cramps and bleeding usually lessen. Then for about 1 to 2 weeks, you will probably bleed like you do when you have your period.

You will have an ultrasound or a lab test to make sure the abortion worked. You will be told when to do this. In a few cases, the medicine doesn't work. If that happens, you may need to take a second dose of medicine or have an in-clinic abortion.

In an in-clinic abortion, a doctor gently widens the opening of your cervix and puts a tube in your uterus. The tube uses suction to remove the contents of the uterus. This procedure takes less than an hour. Before the procedure, you may get medicine to relieve pain and help you relax. After, you may have strong cramps and light bleeding. They don't usually last more than a few days. But cramping may last for up to a few weeks.

Abortion may or may not be legal where you live. No matter where you live, if you need an abortion, you can reach out to Planned Parenthood. They can help you understand your options and how to access that care. There may be funds available if you need to travel.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Why might you choose a pill abortion?

You might choose a pill abortion because compared to an in-clinic abortion:

  • It may be more private.
  • It may feel like a more natural process.
  • It can be done very early in pregnancy.
  • It doesn't require an in-clinic procedure.
  • It may help you feel more in control.

Why might you choose in-clinic abortion?

You might choose an in-clinic abortion because compared to a pill abortion:

  • It takes less time to complete.
  • There is less risk that the abortion won't work.
  • It is less likely to cause heavy bleeding at home.
  • It is less likely to require more visits in the clinic.

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.