How Many Weeks into Pregnancy Can You Get an Abortion?

Pregnancy can either be a time of joy, or a time of confusion. If you were not planning to have a baby yet and you are considering an abortion, there are a few questions you may need answers to. One of those questions is often, “If I need an abortion, how many weeks into pregnancy can I be?”

While “late-term” abortions can be performed, they are usually carefully weighed with the risks, the preferred time is prior to 13 weeks. This article will discuss the safe time frames for abortion and the procedures performed at certain stages of pregnancy. The final decision should come from a discussion between you, your partner if they are present, and your doctor.

Safe Abortion, How Many Weeks Pregnant Can I Be?

The one common question women want the answer to when it comes to abortion is “how many weeks do you need to be in order to safely have one performed?” It really depends on the type of abortion.

The Legal Timeframe

The legal time to terminate an unwanted pregnancy varies for different countries and in the United States, different states have their own regulations about when it’s legal to have a medical abortion.More than half states prohibit abortion at around 24 weeks of pregnancy, except when the baby is the product of rape or when the baby threatens the life and health of the mother. Consult with your doctor to know specific laws in your area.

First Trimester Abortions (1 to 12 Weeks)

You have two different options available, these include:

Medication Abortion

In this type of abortion, the doctor will give you medications to end the pregnancy. You can take them at home and you will follow up with your doctor after you pass the pregnancy. You can do this type of abortion until your 10th week after your last period or your 8th week gestational age.

Your doctor may have already asked you if you choose this method of abortion, how many weeks pregnant you are. They will also perform an ultrasound to confirm the dates.

How It’s Done:

You will be given mifepristone in a pill at your doctor’s visit (or combination with other pills like Misoprostol). Side-effects from the first pill include nausea. You should feel fine after this first pill. You will be given a second pill that you take at home between 6 and 72 hours after the first pill. This second pill will be placed in your cheek and allowed to dissolve slowly or you may be told to insert it into your vagina. This helps your body absorb all of the medication into your bloodstream.

You will begin to feel cramping and start bleeding between one and four hours after you take the medications. This will last for a few hours and you may notice the pregnancy in the toilet or on a pad. Your doctor will want to check you in about a week to make sure you passed everything.

Aspiration Abortion

This type of abortion is done in a hospital or clinic. The doctor will use a suction machine to remove the pregnancy from your uterus. You can do this type of abortion up until the 12th week after your last period or 10th week gestational age.

How It’s Done:

An ultrasound technician will check your uterus and measure the weeks of pregnancy to make sure you are not further along than you think. You may be given medication if you need it to reduce anxiety and pain during the procedure. You will get undressed and lay back on a table. The doctor will insert something into your cervix to make it dilate. Then a suction tube will be inserted to remove the pregnancy from your uterus. You will be told to go home and rest and you may experience cramping and mild bleeding after the procedure. You may be told to contact your doctor if you have heavy bleeding, more than two pads an hour, or develop a fever.

Second Trimester Abortions (13 to 24 Weeks)

Depending on your state laws, some clinics do provide abortion services between the 12th and 24th week of pregnancy. Many women need to have this done due to:

  • Unaware of pregnancy prior to the 13th week
  • Unsure if they wanted an abortion
  • Not enough money to have an abortion earlier in the pregnancy
  • Peer or partner pressure to end or continue the pregnancy
  • Fear of telling anyone about the pregnancy and unsure of who could help

Abortions at this stage of pregnancy require counseling prior to consent for the procedure. You will also be given other options such as adoption or help finding resources to raise your baby. There is no pressure either way, but you will be given options and/or help if you need it. After consenting to the procedure, you will be scheduled to have it done.

The Procedure

You will be scheduled for your surgery at a clinic or hospital. This is a minor surgery so you will need to arrange for recovery time. There are two stages to the procedure done over two different days.

First Stage

You will meet with your doctor and the counselor will see you one more time. If you are sure of the procedure, you will see the ultrasound technician to get an exact date on your pregnancy. Then the doctor will come in and place dilators inside your cervix that will stay in overnight. You will be sent home and given instructions on what to watch for. The dilators may cause cramping and light bleeding.

Second Stage

The next day you will go back to the clinic and they will have you get undressed. You will lie back on a table and place your feet in stirrups. The doctor will place an IV in your arm and you will be given something to make you go to sleep.

During the procedure, the doctor will open your vagina with a speculum and take out the dilators from your cervix. The ultrasound technician will come in and use an ultrasound to make sure all the contents are removed from your uterus. The doctor uses tools to scrape the inside and suction instruments. This takes about a half-hour. You will be placed in recovery to make sure you don’t have any heavy bleeding or complications. There is bleeding, but it should only be about as much as your period. You will be told to take it easy for the next two weeks and no sexual intercourse until you have healed.

You will be scheduled for a follow-up visit to make sure everything is okay.

Third Trimester Abortions (25 Weeks and On)

When it comes to abortion, how many weeks late can it be? This stage is the most cruel. Very late-term abortions are usually done because of a severe anomaly (birth defect) in the baby or health condition in the mother that would jeopardize the lives of both mother and baby during the delivery process or if the pregnancy continued. It is much like a second trimester abortion, only you will deliver an intact fetus. 

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