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Treatment: Termination of Pregnancy

A termination of pregnancy may be carried out if the pregnancy threatens the woman’s physical or emotional health or if tests show a severe fetal disorder. All types of termination cause some abdominal pain for a few hours and a brown discharge for several days. Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 2 weeks afterwards.

Methods of termination

There are several different methods of termination, depending on the stage of the pregnancy. The main methods and their usual timing are outlined in the table here.

When done Where done Procedure used
Early medical abortion Up to the 9th week of pregnancy This method involves taking two drugs to cause an early miscarriage. First, oral mifepristone is given then, about 48 hours later, a prostaglandin drug is also given, usually as a vaginal pessary. These drugs induce the uterus to contract and expel the embryo and placenta, usually within a few hours.
Medical abortion Between the 9th and 20th weeks of pregnancy This method, which is similar to an early medical abortion, involves giving an initial dose of oral mifepristone then, about 48 hours later, also giving a prostaglandin drug, usually as vaginal pessary. However, several doses of prostaglandin may be needed to make the uterus contract and expel the embryo and placenta.
Suction termination Between the 7th and the 12th weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes used before the 7th week and up to the 15th week This procedure involves dilating the cervix and removing the contents of the uterus with a suction device. It may be carried out under either local or general anaesthesia. Before the procedure, the cervix may be softened by administering medication (for example, a prostaglandin pessary inserted into the vagina).
Surgical dilatation and evacuation Between the 15th and end of the 23rd weeks of pregnancy This procedure involves dilating the cervix and removing the contents of the uterus with forceps; any remaining uterine contents are then removed with a suction device. The procedure is carried out under general anaesthesia.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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