Comparison of Early Abortion Options

RHEDI’s comparison chart of early abortion options answers frequently asked questions regarding medication and procedural abortion. Used as a clinical handout, the chart can facilitate a discussion of each abortion method and what patients can expect. As a tool for teaching and learning, this interactive version allows you to click or tap tooltip text for citations and practice tips. A print-ready/PDF version of the table is also available.

1. How far along in the pregnancy can I be?

Medication abortion can be performed up to 12 weeks from the first day of your last period.

2. Can I still have children afterwards?

YES. Neither the medication nor the aspiration abortion will lower your chances of getting pregnant or staying pregnant in the future.

3. Is it safe?

YES. Both of the medications you take have been used safely in the United States for over 20 years. Serious complications are rare. Medication abortion is at least 10 times safer than continuing a pregnancy.

4. What will happen?

The abortion takes place wherever is convenient for you.

  • You will begin the process by swallowing mifepristone (1 pill). Most people don’t feel different after taking it.
  • 6–72 hours later you will take the misoprostol (4 pills). The timing depends on how you take the medication—by letting it dissolve in your cheeks or in your vagina.
  • Heavy bleeding and cramping usually starts 1–4 hours after taking the second medication, and can last for several hours.
  • Most patients do not need to return for a follow-up visit.
5. How painful is it?

You may have mild to very strong cramps off and on during the abortion. Pain medication can help.

6. How much will I bleed?

Most people have heavy bleeding with clots, more than a regular period. This is not dangerous. After that, lighter bleeding may continue off and on for 1–2 weeks or more.

7. How much does it cost?

For both types of abortion, the exact cost depends on where you go and what type of insurance you may have.

8. Can the abortion fail?

Medication abortion works 92–99% of the time. Most people can tell when the medications have worked. If the medications don’t work, you can try a second course of medications or have an aspiration procedure.

9. What are the pros?
  • You can choose to have the abortion at home or wherever is convenient for you.
  • It may feel more natural, like a miscarriage.
  • You can choose to have someone with you or you can be alone.
  • You control the process. There are no shots or anesthesia and nothing goes into your body except the medicines you take.
  • You may have more flexibility with the timing of the abortion.
10. What are the cons?
  • It takes longer to complete the abortion than with an aspiration procedure. 
  • Bleeding can be very heavy and may last longer than with an aspiration abortion. 
  • Cramps can be strong and last longer than with an aspiration abortion.
  • It cannot be done as late in pregnancy as an aspiration abortion.
1. How far along in the pregnancy can I be?

Early abortion procedures are usually performed up to 13 weeks from the first day of your last period.

2. Can I still have children afterwards?

YES. Neither the medication nor the aspiration abortion will lower your chances of getting pregnant or staying pregnant in the future.

3. Is it safe?

YES. Aspiration abortion has been done safely for over 45 years. Abortion in the first trimester (up to 13 weeks) has very few complications, and those are not usually dangerous. An early abortion procedure is at least 10 times safer than continuing a pregnancy.

4. What will happen?

The abortion takes place in the office.

  • During the abortion procedure, you will be on an exam table for 5–10 minutes.
  • Your provider will gently place instruments into your uterus to remove the pregnancy.
  • Most patients do not need to return for a follow-up visit.
5. How painful is it?

You may have mild to very strong cramps off and on during the abortion. Pain management options vary depending on location.

6. How much will I bleed?

Most people have light bleeding after the abortion for 1–7 days. Bleeding may continue off and on for 1–2 weeks or more.

7. How much does it cost?

For both types of abortion, the exact cost depends on where you go and what type of insurance you may have.

8. Can the abortion fail?

Aspiration abortion works 99% of the time. Your provider will know right away that the procedure worked. If the procedure doesn’t work, your provider may offer another aspiration procedure or a course of medication.

9. What are the pros?
  • You It usually takes less than 10 minutes to complete the abortion. 
  • It can be done later in pregnancy than a medication abortion. 
  • You can choose to have someone with you, depending on the location.
  • You see less bleeding than you would with a medication abortion. 
  • You may have more choices for dealing with pain or cramps.
10. What are the cons?
  • A medical provider puts instruments inside the uterus. 
  • Anesthetics and pain medicines may cause side effects. 
  • You have less control over the abortion process and who is with you. 
  • The aspirator device may seem noisy.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
Abortion Procedure
Aspiration (Suction or Vacuum)
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
1. How far along in the pregnancy can I be?
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
Medication abortioncan be performed through 12 weeks from the first day of your last period.
Abortion Procedure
Aspiration (Suction or Vacuum)
Early abortion procedures are usually performed through 13 weeks from the first day of your last period.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
2. Can I still have children afterwards?
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
YES. Neither the medication nor the aspiration abortion will lower yourchances of getting pregnant or staying pregnant in the future.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
3. Is it safe?
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
YES. Both of the medications you take have been used safely in the United States for over 20 years. Seriouscomplicationsare rare. Medication abortion is at least 10 timessaferthan continuing a pregnancy.
Abortion Procedure
Aspiration (Suction or Vacuum)
YES. Aspiration abortion has been done safely for over 45 years. Abortion in the first trimester (up to 13 weeks) has very fewcomplications,and those are not usually dangerous. An early abortion procedure is at least 10 times safer than continuing a pregnancy.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
4. What will happen?
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
The abortion takes placewherever is convenient for you.
  • You willbegin the processby swallowing mifepristone (1 pill). Most people don’t feel different after taking it.
  • 6–72 hours later you will take the misoprostol (4 pills). The timing depends on how you take the medication—by letting itdissolve in your cheeks or in your vagina.
  • Heavy bleeding and cramping usually starts 1–4 hours after taking the second medication, and can last for several hours.
  • Most patients do not need to return for afollow-up visit.
Abortion Procedure
Aspiration (Suction or Vacuum)
The abortion takes place in the office.
  • During the abortion procedure, you will be on an exam table for 5–10 minutes.
  • Your provider will gently placeinstrumentsinto your uterus to remove the pregnancy.
  • Most patients do not need to return for a follow-up visit.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
5. How painful is it?
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion
with Mifepristone and Misoprostol
You may have mild to very strong cramps off and on during the abortion. Pain medicationcan help.
Abortion Procedure
Aspiration (Suction or Vacuum)
You may have mild to very strong cramps off and on during the abortion. Pain management optionsvary depending on your location.
Abortion Pill / Medication Abortion Procedure / Aspiration
Abortion Pill / Medication 6. How much will I bleed?
Abortion Pill / Medication Most people haveheavy bleedingwith clots, more than a regular period. This is not dangerous. After that, lighter bleeding may continue off and on for 1–2 weeks or more.
Abortion Procedure / Aspiration Most people have light bleeding after abortion for 1–7 days. Bleeding may continue off and on for 1–2 weeks or more.
Abortion Pill / Medication 7. How much does it cost?
Abortion Pill / Medication For both types of abortion, theexact costdepends on where you go and what type of insurance you may have.
Abortion Pill / Medication 8. Can the abortion fail?
Abortion Pill / Medication Medication abortionworks 92–99% of the time. Most people can tell when the medications have worked. If the medications don't work, you can try asecond courseof medications or have an aspiration procedure.
Abortion Procedure / Aspiration Aspiration abortionworks 99%of the time. Your provider will know right away that the procedure worked. If the procedure doesn't work, your provider may offer another aspiration procedure or a course of medication.
Abortion Pill / Medication 9. What are thepros?
Abortion Pill / Medication
  • You can choose to have the abortionat homeor wherever is convenient for you.
  • It may feel more natural, like a miscarriage.
  • You canchoose to have someone with youor you can be alone.
  • You control the process. There are no shots or anesthesia and nothing goes into your body except the medicines you take.
  • You may have more flexibility with thetimingof the abortion.
Abortion Procedure / Aspiration
  • It usually takes less than 10 minutes to complete the abortion.
  • It can be done later in pregnancy than a medication abortion.
  • You can choose to have someone with you, depending on the location.
  • You will see less bleeding than you would with a medication abortion.
  • You may have more choices fordealing with painor cramps.
Abortion Pill / Medication 10. What are thecons?
Abortion Pill / Medication
  • It takeslonger to complete the abortion than with an aspiration procedure.
  • Bleeding can be very heavy and may last longer than with an aspiration abortion.
  • Cramps can be stronger andlast longerthan with an aspiration abortion.
  • It cannot be done as late in pregnancy as an aspiration abortion.
Abortion Procedure / Aspiration
  • A medical provider puts instruments inside the uterus.
  • Anesthetics and pain medicines may cause side effects.
  • You have lesscontrolover the abortion process and who is with you.
  • The aspirator device may seem noisy.

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