How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Done?

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How is a second trimester abortion done? If you're facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering abortion, it's important to have all the facts regarding this issue.

About Second Trimester Abortion

Although pro-life activists often show shocking pictures of late term abortions in their promotional literature, most women who decide to terminate a pregnancy have an abortion in the first trimester. Abortions that occur before pregnancy calendar week 12 make up between 80 and 90 percent of all abortions, depending upon which studies you happen to be reading.

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. (Contrary to popular belief, Medicaid does not pay for abortions for low income women. A woman with limited financial resources often requires several weeks to obtain the money for the procedure.)
  • 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.

Several studies have indicated that 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 sense of denial about how to best approach 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.

How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Done?

Although medication-based abortion procedures can be used during the first trimester, this option is not available for a women in the second trimester of her pregnancy. Types of surgical abortion procedures performed during the second trimester include:

  • Dilation & Curettage (D & C) involves using a sharp instrument to remove tissue from inside the uterus. This procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes, although it may take a bit longer if you wish to have an intrauterine device (IUD) put in place for long-term birth control at this time. After this type of abortion, it is common to experience spotting for about two weeks as well as minor menstrual-type cramps.
  • Dilation & Evacuation (D & E) is a procedure that includes a combination of vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage, and surgical instruments, such as forceps, to remove fetal tissue. The procedure usually takes about 30 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.
  • Induction abortion is a rare type of abortion procedure in which salt water, urea, or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic sac, prostaglandins are inserted into the vagina, and pitocin is injected intravenously. When asking "How is a second trimester abortion done?", remember 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 to be 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.

Additional Abortion Information

To learn more about abortion, please review the following articles from LoveToKnow Pregnancy:

If you are in your second trimester and still not certain abortion is the right choice for you, adoption may be a good alternative. LoveToKnow Baby has several articles on this topic.

How Is a Second Trimester Abortion Done?