What Are the Different Types of Abortion?

There are two types of abortions: medical and surgical. The gestational age of the pregnancy determines what procedures one may be eligible for. 

Ultrasounds are necessary to reveal the gestational age of the pregnancy to determine what options might be available to you, including which type(s) of abortion. 

Keep reading for an in-depth description of both types of abortion.

Medical Abortion

Medical abortion, also known as the abortion pill, is a two-step process involving two medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. 

Mifepristone is the first drug taken and works to block the pregnancy hormone progesterone. This causes the uterine wall to thin, making the embryo detach from the uterus. 

Misoprostol is the second drug taken, which causes contractions to expel the pregnancy from the body through the vagina. 


According to the Mayo Clinic, the risks of medical abortion include the following:

  • Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
  • An ongoing pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Digestive system discomfort


Again, talking with a trusted medical professional and getting a pregnancy test and an ultrasound is strongly recommended if you are contemplating the abortion pill. If you are more than ten weeks into your pregnancy, you are not eligible to receive the abortion pill. 

Ultrasounds help determine your pregnancy’s age, health, and location so that you can genuinely know what options are available. 

Other factors that eliminate abortion pill eligibility, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Having an intrauterine device (IUD) currently in place.
  • Having a suspected pregnancy outside of the uterus. This is called an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Having certain medical conditions. These include bleeding disorders; particular heart or blood vessel diseases; severe liver, kidney, or lung disease; or an uncontrolled seizure disorder.
  • Taking a blood thinner or certain steroid medicines.
  • Unable to make follow-up visits to your provider or don’t have access to emergency care.
  • Having an allergy to the medicine used.

Surgical Abortion

An operation is required to end a pregnancy with surgical abortion. How far along you are in your pregnancy determines which type of surgical abortion may be available. 

There are two types of surgical abortion procedures: D&C (Dilation and Curettage) or D&E (Dilation & Evacuation). Both procedures usually begin with a lethal injection to cause fetal expiration. 

D&C uses small surgical instruments or medication to open the cervix. Then using a curette (a sharp instrument) and suction device, the pregnancy is removed. 

D&E is typically a mix of vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage, with surgical instruments to end the pregnancy and remove it from the body.

Like any procedure, there are certain risks involved. Risks of surgical abortion include:

  • Perforation of the uterus (a hole in your uterus from the surgical instruments)
  • Damage or tear to the cervix
  • Scar tissue on the uterine wall
  • Infection though rare is possible

Next Steps

Before making a decision, it’s important to take the steps necessary to protect your health. Getting a quality pregnancy test and an ultrasound can help ensure there are no potential life-threatening complications (like miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy) and also help determine what options are available to you. 

Contact us for free help and services. You’re not alone; we are here to listen, help, and support you as you walk this journey.