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What are the different types of abortion procedures available in India?

The Supreme Court of India on Thursday ruled that all women, married or not, are entitled to safe and legal abortion under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. While it’s legal, many women struggle to understand what the abortion procedure is all about, and what are the different types they can opt for. Simply put, abortion refers to terminating a pregnancy using medical means.

“Various reports have suggested that over 50 per cent of all unintended pregnancies worldwide end in abortions,” Dr Gunjan Gupta Govil, Gynaecological and IVF Expert, Founder and Chairman, Gunjan IVF World Group said. She added that there are majorly two types of abortion practises applied in India — medical abortion (using abortion pills) and surgical abortion (in-clinic procedure).

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There are medium to low levels of risk involved in both methods but which method to go for is decided by the duration of the pregnancy, the gynaecologist explained. Let us learn more about these two common types of abortion procedures followed in the country.

Medical abortion

According to Dr Govil, this kind of procedure involves taking pills that terminate a pregnancy. “The medications are taken to cause the uterus to empty itself in order to terminate the pregnancy. These medications stop the pregnancy to continue to develop. These medications are FDA-approved for ending pregnancy up to 10 weeks but the woman may suffer from cramping and heavy bleeding depending on the duration of the pregnancy,” she said.

Which method to go for is decided by the duration of the pregnancy (File)

Many women experience cramping and bleeding after taking pills as they cause the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy tissue, the expert explained. She added, “Medical Abortion is safe but is not recommended for everyone, so before taking any pill you must first consult a doctor.”

Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion refers to the in-clinic procedures in order to terminate the pregnancy. “There are mainly two types of surgical abortion: Vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation (D&E). The two procedures are used keeping in mind the length of your pregnancy. While D&E can be used for up to 20 weeks, Vacuum Aspiration is done for up to 16 weeks from the patient’s last period. Vacuum Aspiration procedure lasts for around 10-15 minutes while D and E can take up to 30 minutes.”

Just like medical abortion, women undergoing surgical abortion may also experience side effects such as bleeding, cramps, nausea and sweating. “Risk of infection is higher than in Medical Abortion,” she added.

Explaining the D&E procedure, the gynaecologist mentioned that is a combination of vacuum aspiration and dilation and curettage (D and C). “The surgeon removes pregnancy tissue from the patient’s body and the procedure is done with the help of local anaesthesia to prevent discomfort and pain,” Dr Govil said.

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