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How to Get an Abortion

Understand the steps to take to have an abortion, how long you have to take those steps, and what to expect. Learn more about how to get an abortion now.

Written by

Sally Rashid

Reviewed by

Dr. B

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Abortions are safe and very common. Approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies and more than half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. There are many reasons a person may choose to end a pregnancy, but wanting an abortion is enough of a reason to have one. Your decision is yours alone and you deserve to be informed and supported as you decide what is right for you.

What are my abortion options?

With any medical procedure, it’s important to know and understand your options. If you are seeking abortion care, your health history, gestational age (how far along the pregnancy is), and your personal preferences and circumstances all play a role in choosing the type of abortion treatment that is right for you. Discussing your information with a healthcare provider can help you make an informed decision.

There are two options for abortion treatment. A medication abortion, often referred to as “the abortion pill,” is a safe way to end a pregnancy up to 10 weeks gestational age. The other option, surgical abortion, involves an in-clinic procedure performed by a trained medical provider, during which the pregnancy is removed using gentle suction. Surgical abortion can be performed before or after 10 weeks. Both options are very safe and have no impact on future fertility, mental health issues, or cancer-risk.

What is a medication abortion?

About 40% of abortions are performed with medications. Medication abortion works by stopping a pregnancy from growing and causing the uterus to empty, similar to an early miscarriage. In pregnancies up to 10 weeks, medication abortion treatments can be completed at home. They usually feel like a heavy, crampy period.

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How long does a medication abortion take?

The medication abortion treatment takes a few days, as the medications used in the procedure are taken one to two days apart. The first medication that is taken is mifepristone, which blocks the pregnancy hormone, progesterone. Without progesterone, the uterine lining breaks down and the pregnancy stops growing. At this point, some people may experience vaginal spotting or bleeding, or even light cramping. Some people don’t feel anything after taking the first medicine. Either is normal and okay. 

1-2 days after taking the mifepristone, you will take four tablets of the second medication, misoprostol. This medication causes uterine cramping and bleeding about 1-6 hours later. Light bleeding on and off is normal for a few days to weeks following your medication abortion.

About one week after the treatment, you will need to follow up with your medical provider (online, by phone, or in person) to confirm the treatment was successful. Medication abortion is up to 98% effective (the treatment is successful in about 98 out of every 100 people that complete the treatment). 

What is a surgical abortion?

Surgical abortion can be used for pregnancies up to 16 weeks and later, depending on your state’s laws. Performed at a medical clinic, surgical abortion treatment is the most common abortion procedure, though medication abortion continues to gain popularity. A surgical abortion is also sometimes called a suction abortion. During the procedure, a medical provider uses gentle suction to empty the uterus or womb. After 16 weeks, a surgical abortion is called dilation and evacuation or D&E and involves dilating the cervix before emptying the uterus or womb.

Some people prefer surgical abortion because they feel reassured by the presence of a healthcare provider, as well as immediate confirmation that the treatment was successful. Others prefer surgical abortion because the procedure tends to be fairly quick. Patients sometimes have less bleeding after the treatment than with a medication abortion. In first trimester surgical abortion, vaginal bleeding after the treatment may be lighter than with a medical abortion, though this is not always the case.

How long does a surgical abortion take?

Nearly all surgical abortion procedures are performed in less than 15 minutes, but you may be at the clinic for 2-3 hours. In circumstances of abortions after the first trimester, the procedure may take a couple days, one day to dilate the cervix and another day to perform the abortion procedure. This procedure, called a D&E, is safe and fairly common, about 11% of abortions are done this way.

Recovery after abortion is different for everyone. Some people are comfortable returning to regular activities right away, while others may need a bit more time. You can return to normal activities as soon as you feel ready, even the following day if you’re up to it!

As with medication abortion, an in-clinic follow-up appointment is not always necessary. Your abortion provider will let you know after the procedure if a visit is needed.

How long can I wait to have an abortion?

While not the case for everyone dealing with an unintended pregnancy, deciding on how to move forward may take time. Just how and when to have an abortion is very personal, and pregnant people should have the time and space needed to make a confident decision. However, some states have restrictions on abortion and gestational age, so the sooner you make a decision, the more options you’ll have for treatment.

Medical abortion is FDA approved up to 10 weeks since your last menstrual period. If this abortion method is your preference, you’ll need to make a decision before the end of the first trimester. After 11 weeks, surgical abortion is available, limited only by your state’s laws. 

Surgical abortion can usually be performed up to 16 weeks or later, depending on your state’s laws. You can visit this website here to find out the options in your state.

If you’re looking for someone to talk to as you decide what’s best for you, there are many hotlines, textlines, and online resources available.

Buying Mifepristone and Misoprostol together online

With an increase in online telehealth services, it’s now possible to have a medication abortion without stepping inside of a clinic. Today, a pregnant person seeking abortion care can buy mifepristone and misoprostol together online after consulting with a licensed medical provider. 

Mifepristone works to stop the growth of a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. When this hormone is blocked, the uterine lining breaks down, and the pregnancy is unable to continue growing. Mifepristone has been used in the United States to for medication abortion treatment for the last twenty years.

Misoprostol is the the second medication used in a medication abortion. It’s taken 1-2 days after mifepristone and causes uterine cramping to empty the uterus. When both mifepristone and misoprostol are taken together, they’re 98% effective in ending a pregnancy.

Hey Jane makes taking the abortion medications safe and easy by connecting you with a medical provider in about 24-hours. Hey Jane will make sure you’re eligible for a medication abortion and ship your FDA-approved abortion pills directly to your door so that you can have your abortion at home or wherever you feel most comfortable.

How to get an abortion at home

Abortion advocates and providers are working to make online access to medication abortion simple and easier than ever before. While some states currently require a provider be physically present to prescribe abortion medications (and thus banning telehealth abortion care), many states have less restrictive laws and policies. To find the options available to you, you can check here.

Hey Jane offers virtual office visits for people who are over 18 years old and are up to 10 weeks pregnant. Verify that you live in an eligible state here and speak with a licensed abortion provider via a secure chat or, if preferred, a video or phone appointment. A provider will review your health history and answer any of your questions about having a medication abortion. Once approved, you’ll receive your abortion medications in an unmarked box in 1-3 days.

Hey Jane offers text-support 7 days a week, from 10am to 8pm EST at (405) 342-3654. If you’re a current patient experiencing medical concerns, we are available 24-hours a day. If you have remaining questions, check out our resources for support, as well as our FAQs for answers to common questions. 

Meet Hey Jane: modern, virtual abortion care

Learn more

Written by

Sally Rashid

Sally Rashid is a Registered Nurse and writer living in Detroit, Michigan. She has worked in reproductive care for a decade as a doula, nurse, and advocate for abortion access. Sally was a 2020 winner of Yes, And Laughter Lab's competitive incubation program for her work as writer and co-creator of Darling, a dark comedy about an abortion clinic at constant risk of closure. On top of writing for the beauty and healthcare industries, Sally is an all-around creative lady who loves music, making connections, and chilling with her two cats.

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