Medical abortion (abortion pill) and surgical abortion: the difference

If you are deciding to have an abortion, you may be wondering which is better and what is the difference between a medical abortion, also known as the abortion pill, and a surgical abortion. Choosing between the medical or surgical option is very dependent on your own personal circumstances and personal preference. It is best to gather information about both options and then decide which you are most comfortable with. Some people are happier in a surgical environment with healthcare staff supporting you. For others this may be daunting, and rather getting the guidance from medical professionals and then being at home while the medical pill works is better for you.

Let’s give you some information about the two options to help you with your choice.

Medical abortion (abortion pill)

A non-surgical option for abortion is the “abortion pill” or medical abortion. It is available to most women up to 63 days’ gestation.

The “abortion pill” is a combination of two medications; mifepristone and misoprostol. First you take the pill of mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own production of progesterone. Your body needs progesterone to grow the pregnancy. The mifepristone therefore causes the body to stop the pregnancy from growing.

Next is the misoprostol, either right away or up to 48 hours later. This causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It is similar to a very heavy period.

You should take this medicine at a safe place like the Abortion Hospital, under the guidance of a medical doctor or gynecologist. They will give you the guidelines and advice of what to take and when.

Risks of medical abortion

Medical abortion is a safe and effective method of terminating a pregnancy up to 9 weeks, but it is best to do it under the care of a medical professional. There are some risks as seen below:

  1. Ongoing pregnancy occurs in less than 1%. A surgical abortion would then be recommended.
  2. Infection is very uncommon, less than 1%.
  3. Incomplete abortion is the most common complication, about 1-4% and occurs when the pregnancy is not completely evacuated from the uterus. A surgical procedure may be needed if the cramping or bleeding does not settle.
  4. Excessive bleeding severe enough that it requires a blood transfusion occurs only in 1 in 1000 cases.

Why choose a medical abortion?

If your pregnancy is under 9 weeks and you would prefer a non-surgical option, then a medical abortion may be for you. Other advantages of a medical abortion are:

  • No anesthetic;
  • It is a non-invasive procedure;
  • As a non-surgical procedure, there are no surgical risks;
  • It can feel more “natural”, as it is very similar to a very heavy period

Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion is a safe procedure when performed under the care of a medical professional in an established medical facility, like the Abortion Hospital. When the abortion is performed in the first 14 weeks’ gestation, surgical abortion has a low complication rate. A surgical abortion performed in the first trimester is done with a very light sedation and is minimally invasive.

The risks of surgical abortion

Although complications can occur in about 3% of cases, major complications are very rare. Some of the complications are as follows:

  1. Ongoing pregnancy is uncommon, about 1 in 500 cases.
  2. Infection is uncommon, only occurs in under 1% of cases. You can usually be given antibiotics with your procedure to reduce the risk.
  3. Damage to the cervix is uncommon and rarely has any long lasting effects.
  4. Incomplete abortion is the most common complication, up to about 2%. It can occur when a small piece of the pregnancy or lining remains in the uterus. A repeat procedure may be needed.

If you experience severe bleeding, fever or severe pain following a surgical abortion, you must contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Why choose surgical abortion?

Overall, surgical abortion is a very safe and effective procedure when performed by a medical professional.

The advantages of a surgical procedure are:

  • It can be performed later in the pregnancy than a medical abortion;
  • It usually only involves one visit to the hospital;
  • It has a very low complication rate;
  • Medical staff are present with you throughout the whole process;
  • There’s usually less bleeding and cramping than with a medical abortion.
  • The procedure itself will only take a short amount of time.
  • The side-effects are minimal – you may experience some dizziness, nausea or vomiting but not in all cases and not for long periods following the procedure.
  • There is less medication involved than there are in a medical abortion.

The final decision

Whichever option you choose, it’s best to discuss your options with a qualified medical professional, and/or a counsellor. They can help you to decide which is best for you. You should also have the procedure under the care of an experienced gynecologist or medical doctor, at a trustworthy institution like the Abortion Hospital. You will be provided with all the information and guidance you need to make the correct choice for you.