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What happens during a first trimester abortion?

More than 95% of abortions are done in the first trimester, which is the 6th through 12th week of pregnancy, or 4 to 8 weeks after conception. An abortion done during the first trimester is a simpler medical procedure than one done later in a pregnancy.

The person having the abortion lies on an examining table with her legs in stirrups, just like she would for a pelvic exam. The doctor examines her, especially the size and shape of her uterus, to see how far along the pregnancy is. The doctor inserts an intravenous (IV) tube into the arm or hand of the person having the abortion. The tube is hooked up to a medication that will go into the bloodstream to help the person relax. It may make her feel sleepy and will help to take away any pain she might have.

The doctor then places a speculum in her vagina to see her cervix better and injects a local anesthetic in and around the cervix. A special instrument is put on the cervix to hold it in place so it doesn't move around. The doctor uses other special instruments to slowly dilate (open) the cervix. After the cervix is opened, a plastic tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The tube is connected to a vacuum suction machine. Using the suction, the doctor removes all the pregnancy tissue from the uterus. The machine makes a lot of noise while it's working, but the process usually takes just a minute or two. The suction may cause some cramping while it is going on, but the person shouldn't feel much else because of the local anesthesia around the cervix and the IV medication.

Once the suction is done, the procedure is over. The doctor will remove the special instruments from the cervix and the speculum. From start to finish, the entire process takes about 10 minutes.

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