How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Done?

Julie Kirk
Sad woman sitting on bed

If you're facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering abortion, it's important to have all the facts regarding this issue. Depending on how far along you are, you may need more information on a second trimester abortion and how it's done.

How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Performed?

Although medication-based abortion procedures can be used during the first trimester, this option is not available for a woman in the second trimester of her pregnancy. You would need a surgical procedure and the different types of surgical abortion procedures performed in the second trimester include:

Dilation & Evacuation (D & E)

The dilation & evacuation is a procedure that includes a combination of vacuum aspiration and surgical instruments to remove fetal tissue. The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes to perform and is the most common type of second trimester abortion. Spotting and minor menstrual-type cramps are the most common side effects of the procedure.

Dilation & Curettage (D & C)

The dilation & curettage surgical abortion procedure may be used if the vacuum aspiration is not an option. Otherwise, a D & C procedure is more commonly used to remove tissue that may remain in the uterus after an abortion or miscarriage. The procedure involves using a small, sharp instrument called a curette to remove tissue from inside the uterus. After this type of abortion, it is common to experience spotting as well as minor menstrual-type cramps.

Induction Abortion

An induction abortion is a rare type of abortion procedure in which salt water, urea, or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic sac which will cause fetal death. Prostaglandins are inserted into the vagina to help thin out the cervix. Pitocin is injected intravenously to start uterine contractions. Keep in mind that less than one percent of all abortions are performed using this method, and it is most commonly used when the fetus suffers from severe abnormalities and the parents wish to have time with their child after the procedure. Induction abortion is also used when genetic testing is required because the couple wishes to try to conceive again in the future.

Reasons for Second Trimester Abortions

The majority of women who decide to terminate a pregnancy actually have an abortion in the first trimester. Abortions that occur before pregnancy calendar week 12 make up about 90 percent of all abortions. However, there are circumstances in which women opt to have a second trimester abortion. Some of the reasons women seek abortions during the second trimester include:

  • The woman did not realize she was pregnant immediately because she normally has very irregular periods, thought she was infertile, or believed she was going through menopause.
  • The woman lives in a very rural area and had problems getting an appointment with a provider in a timely fashion.
  • The woman couldn't afford to pay for the abortion during the first trimester.
  • The woman was unsure whether or not she wanted to continue with the pregnancy.
  • The woman was being pressured by a partner to continue the pregnancy.
  • It was discovered that continuing the pregnancy would endanger the mother's life.
  • A medical problem was discovered that meant the child would be born severely disabled.
  • There were drastic changes in the woman's circumstances after she realized she was pregnant, such as the ending of the relationship with the baby's father.

Second trimester abortions are much more common for teenagers than for older women. This is likely due to a number of factors, such as a general ignorance of reproductive health and a blatant denial about the pregnancy. However, since many states have parental consent laws for teens who wish to obtain an abortion, it is important for the pregnant teen to evaluate all of her options as soon as possible.

The Abortion Decision

Making the decision to have an abortion in your second trimester is extremely difficult. If you are still uncertain abortion is the right choice for you, you may want to discuss the issue with your doctor, a counselor, a family member, a close friend or you may want to consider adoption as another option.

How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Done?