Surgical Abortion vs Pill: What You Should Know

Deciding whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is challenging, and then determining the safest and most effective way to determine adds an additional challenge during a sensitive time in your life. In this blog post, we’ll share everything you need to know about both medical and surgical abortion options so you can make the most informed decision if you choose to end a pregnancy.

What is a Surgical Abortion vs Pill?

When you begin exploring your options for terminating an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy that isn’t viable, you’ll learn that there are two general kinds of abortion: medical or surgical. In this blog post, we’ll describe each type of abortion including eligibility criteria, what to expect, recovery, and long-term outcomes to help you make the most informed decision about your future.

Medical Abortion

Medical abortion is often referred to as ‘the abortion pill’ and refers to a combination of two medications that are designed to end pregnancy with surgery in its earliest stages.

When is the Abortion Pill Recommended?

Women who are up to 11 weeks pregnant may be candidates for the abortion pill, but the effectiveness of the medication wanes as the pregnancy progresses, which means it’s most effective for women who are up to 8 weeks pregnant. Specifically, effectiveness by gestation is:

  • 94-98% effective for women who are 8 weeks pregnant or less
  • 94-96% effective for women who are 8-9 weeks pregnant
  • 91-93% effective for women who are 9-10 weeks pregnant
  • 87% effective for women who are 10-11 weeks pregnant

In some cases, women who are 9-11 weeks pregnant can be given an extra dose of medication to increase the likelihood of a successful termination.

What Should I Expect During My Medical Abortion?

A medical abortion requires several clinic appointments in Wisconsin. First, you’ll visit a pregnancy clinic for a consultation appointment. During that appointment, we’ll confirm your pregnancy, viability, and gestation and discuss all of your options with you.

If you choose to terminate the pregnancy, you’ll be referred to a clinic that performs abortions for a counseling appointment. In Wisconsin, the counseling must be provided at least 24 hours before the abortion is administered, so you’ll come back 24 hours later to take the first medication, which is called mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks your body’s progesterone, which is needed to continue pregnancy. Then you’ll take a second pill called misoprostol, which causes your uterus to empty. You can expect to experience cramping and bleeding, which might be uncomfortable or even painful, after you take the second pill. When you take that pill will depend on your provider’s instructions.

What are My Options if the Abortion Pill Doesn’t Work?

If you don’t experience bleeding within a day of taking the misoprostol, you may be able to receive another dose or move forward with a surgical abortion. Contact your doctor or nurse to let them know that you didn’t bleed after your medical abortion.

What are the Benefits of Medical Abortion?

Many women choose medical abortion if they’re eligible because it allows them to avoid a surgical procedure and the recovery that comes with it. It can also be performed earlier in the pregnancy and for some women, offers greater privacy as they don’t have to arrange a support person for travel after their procedure.

Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion, which is also called suction aspiration abortion, refers to the surgical procedure designed to terminate a pregnancy.

When is Surgical Abortion Recommended?

Surgical abortion can be performed to terminate pregnancy for women who are up to 19 weeks and 6 days pregnant in Wisconsin (and in cases when the mother’s life is in danger, up to 22 weeks pregnant). For this reason, surgical abortion is appropriate for many women who are not candidates for medical abortion due to length of gestation. Some medical providers delay surgical abortion until after 7 weeks gestation.

Surgical abortion is 98-99% effective, making it more effective overall than medical abortion.

What Should I Expect During My Surgical Abortion?

In most cases, surgical abortion is a one-day, outpatient procedure. Per Wisconsin state law, you’ll be counseled on your options at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. If you choose to proceed with surgical abortion, your healthcare team will provide you with pre-op instructions so you know how to prepare for your appointment and recovery.

On the day of your procedure, you’ll be given medications to help manage your pain and relax your cervix. Much like you do during an annual exam, you’ll lie on an exam table and place your feet in the stirrups. A speculum is inserted in your vagina so your cervix can be dilated and pregnancy tissue can be removed using gentle suction.

You may experience some cramping and discomfort during and after the procedure. You’ll need a driver to take you home after the procedure, but you’ll be able to return to regular activity the next day.

Women who are more than fourteen weeks pregnant will likely need to stay in the hospital overnight and may have a different experience and recovery. Your doctor can help you understand what to expect.

What are My Options if the Abortion Doesn’t Work?

Surgical abortion is very rarely unsuccessful. In the rare case that a surgical abortion is unsuccessful, discuss your options with your healthcare provider. You may be eligible for a repeat procedure.

What are the Benefits of Surgical Abortion?

Some women choose surgical abortion because it can be performed later in pregnancy, it requires fewer office visits, it produces less bleeding afterward, and it’s more effective overall than medical abortion.

What Method is Right for Me?

Willow Womens Center can help you evaluate your options when facing an unexpected pregnancy. For women who choose to end an unplanned pregnancy, both medical and surgical termination are effective options. When it comes to surgical abortion vs pill, there is no best option for all patients; consulting with your healthcare provider is imperative for making the most informed decision.

Schedule an appointment with Willow Womens Center to explore your options for unplanned pregnancy today.