How to Decide Whether or Not to Get an Abortion

Two Parts:Reaching a DecisionUsing Birth Control

An abortion is either a chemical or surgical procedure whereby a fetus is evacuated or removed from the uterus.[1] Although controversial, abortions are a regularly performed and safe procedure if done under the care of a doctor.[2] But deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy—wanted, unwanted, or unexpected—can be a very difficult decision. By informing yourself, talking to your doctor and loved ones, and giving yourself time you can make the right decision for yourself.[3]

Part 1
Reaching a Decision

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    Confirm that you are pregnant. Before you begin the difficult process of making a decision on an abortion, confirm that you are pregnant. You can use a home test or see your doctor to determine if you even need to consider an abortion.[4]
    • In most cases, if you are pregnant and decide to have an abortion, your doctor or clinic will administer another test for definitive confirmation.
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    Consider your situation. It’s important to think about your personal situation before you decide on an abortion or speak to others about it. This can give you time to clearly consider the repercussions of a pregnancy or abortion without any outside forces influencing you. Ask yourself questions including:[5]
    • Am I ready to be a parent to a child?
    • Can I afford to have a baby and raise it?
    • How does having a baby impact my life and that of my partner’s or my family?
    • Could this pregnancy be a risk to my physical or mental health?
    • Would I consider adoption?
    • What are my religious/moral/ethical views on abortion?
    • Am I able to handle the emotional and physical experience of an abortion?
    • Am I getting pressure to have an abortion? Conversely, am I getting pressure to keep the pregnancy?[6]
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    See your doctor. If you suspect you are pregnant or have confirmed it with a test, schedule an appointment with your doctor or ob/gyn. They can advise you about your options, including abortion.
    • Your doctor should not pressure you in any direction. They should simply provide you with information about what options are available to you.
    • If you are strongly considering an abortion, prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor. It’s important to know that if performed by a medical doctor, abortions are generally safe and won’t affect your later fertility.[7]
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    Discuss your situation with loved ones. Once you’ve had a chance to consider your pregnancy and a possible abortion as well as see your doctor, discuss what is going on with your loved ones. They may help you reach a decision that is best for you.[8]
    • Many women feel alone or isolated when making the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Talking to your family may offer you the support and understanding you need.[9]
    • Don’t let anyone pressure you into something you don’t want to do.[10]
    • You can talk to your partner or other family members if that helps.
    • You can ask your partner or family member to accompany you to the clinic if you like.
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    Seek support from other trusted people. In some cases, you may not be able to talk to your family or your partner about your situation. Consider talking to a friend, a supervisor, or other trusted person about making a decision.
    • Talking to friends or even the friend of a friend who has had an abortion or had to make a similar decision may help you and provide some comfort
    • As with family, don’t let anyone influence your decision. Remember that it is your decision and not anyone else’s.
    • Be aware that if you are over the age of 18, you do not have to tell anyone—the decision is entirely yours about who to tell.[11]
    • If you are under 18 and in a situation of an unwanted pregnancy, you may be required to get the permission of a parent or guardian to terminate the pregnancy.[12]
    • Some initiatives, including Hope after Abortion or Planned Parenthood can give you information about support groups for people who have had abortions. Consider attending a meeting to talk to other women who have gone through the experience of a pregnancy termination.[13]
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    Clarify information about the effects of abortion. There is significant information—and misinformation— floating around about abortion and its effects. It’s important to clarify and get proper information on abortion as you make your final decision.[14]
    • When performed under medical care, abortions are largely safe and only accompanied by complications in 1% of cases.[15]
    • Abortions will not cause breast cancer nor do they make a woman more prone to the disease.[16]
    • Abortion will not cause “post-abortion” syndrome, a fact that the American Psychological Association have proven with scientific evidence.[17] A woman may experience a wide variety of feelings after an abortion, but this does not mean she made the wrong choice.[18] Likewise, abortion will not cause other mental health issues.[19]
    • Abortion will not cause infertility or damage later pregnancies.[20]
    • Some US state governments and doctors, especially so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” may not only provide misinformation about abortions to deter you from the procedure but may also require pre-procedure counseling.[21] Make sure to research and evaluate any information you are provided with about abortion.
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    Reach your decision. Once you’ve informed yourself about your options and spoken to a trusted person, compose a list of the pros and cons of terminating your pregnancy. Seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper may help you reach a decision more easily.[22]
    • Take your time to make the decision—it can have serious consequences for you and your overall well-being.
    • You do not need to make a decision immediately, but you should know that the risk to your health increases the longer you wait to terminate your pregnancy, if this is what you decide. Abortion is not legal after 24 weeks in some places except in special circumstances.[23]
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    Remember that the decision is yours alone. Talking to family, your partner, or friends about your options can be very helpful and soothe you. But remember that the decision to keep or terminate the pregnancy is yours in the end.[24]
    • If you know or are together with the father of the baby, you may want to also seriously consider his position.
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    Learn about different types of abortion. There are different kinds of and reasons for abortion. Learning about your options may help you and your doctor decide what is best for your situation.[25]
    • There are two types of abortions: medical and surgical.[26]
    • Abortions are performed because a woman doesn't want a pregnancy, there is a risk to the mother's health or there is something seriously wrong with the developing fetus.[27]
    • Medical, or non-surgical abortions, are done within seven weeks from the first day of the woman’s last period. For this, your health care provider will perform a physical exam and then prescribe a medication such as mifepristone, methotrexate, misoprostol, or a combination of these drugs.[28]
    • Take the prescribed medicine. After you take it, your body will begin to expel the pregnancy tissue. This will likely cause moderate to heavy bleeding and cramping for a few hours.[29] Once this is complete, you will need to see your doctor to make sure your body has expelled all of the tissue.[30]
    • Surgical abortion can be performed after the 7th week of, as well as later into, a pregnancy. The procedure involves dilating the cervix and inserting a small suction tube into the uterus to remove the fetus and any other pregnancy material.[31]
    • You will lie on a table with your legs in stirrups and may receive a sedative during a surgical abortion.[32]
    • You will likely stay in a recovery area for a few hours after the procedure. Your doctor will tell you when you can go home and give you any instructions required for taking care of yourself. You will also need to see your doctor for a follow-up appointment to make sure that the procedure was successful.[33]

Part 2
Using Birth Control

  1. Image titled Decide Whether or Not to Get an Abortion Step 10
    Consider your family wishes and lifestyle. If you find yourself with an unwanted pregnancy, you may consider birth control to avoid the situation further down the road. There are different factors to consider, such as if and when you want children, if you want to take pills or not worry about taking daily medication, and your lifestyle, including if you travel frequently. Such considerations can help you determine the most appropriate form of birth control for you.[34]
    • Honestly assess yourself, your partner and your relationship. If you are not in a monogamous relationship, this may influence your choice(s) for the type of birth control you use.[35] For example, if you are in a long term relationship and don’t want kids immediately, you could choose a long term birth control method such as an intrauterine device (IUD). If you have multiple sexual partners, consider birth control pills and condoms to protect from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.[36]
    • If you are in a long-term relationship, involve your partner in the decision so that you can make it mutually and it fits with both of your lifestyles.
    • Think about factors such as, “do I want to plan every time I have sex?” “do I want to remember to take a pill every day?” “do I want to end my fertility permanently?”[37]
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    Explore birth control methods. There are several different types of birth control available. Exploring them may help you decide which option is appropriate for you.
    • Barrier methods are inserted right before sex and include male and female condoms, a diaphragm, a cervical cap, and spermicide.[38]
    • With proper use, barrier methods can minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancy, but you may want to use a secondary method to as extra protection. For example, if you’re using condoms, which have a failure rate of 2-18%, you may want to also use a spermicide.[39]
    • Hormonal birth control has a low failure rate of less than 1% to 9% and is good option if you want to avoid pregnancy and are in a long-term relationship.[40] Hormonal birth control methods include the Pill, a patch, or a vaginal ring.[41] Birth control pills may also help regulate your menstrual cycle.[42]
    • Choose a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) method such as an IUD, hormonal shots, or a contraceptive implant if you want to wait to have children. LARCs will not affect your ability to conceive in the long-term.[43]
    • Sterilization is a permanent birth control method only if you are sure you never want children. Vasectomies and tubal ligations are usually irreversible and must be seriously considered before making a final decision to go through with them.[44]
    • Natural Family Planning, or NFP, stays away from medications and more immediate methods such as condoms. This might be a choice if you can’t use other contraceptives or simply don’t want to use other methods. NFP includes the rhythm method, checking cervical mucus and checking basal temperature, or withdrawal.[45] NFPs require significant planning and diligence, but have no cost or side effects.[46]
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    Learn the potential risks of different birth control methods. Each birth control method has potential risks such as unwanted pregnancy. Being aware of potential risks and side effects may help you choose the best method for you.
    • Hormonal birth control, such as pills, patches, and vaginal rings can make you more susceptible to certain cancers if used over a long period of time. They can also cause some weight gain, increase your blood pressure, and affect your cholesterol.[47]
    • Barrier methods such as condoms, spermicides, and caps can cause allergic reactions and may increase your risk for urinary tract infections or STDs.[48]
    • Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods come with side effects including perforation of the uterus, increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy, as well as pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.[49]
    • There are no specific medical risks to NFP, but you are at an increased risk for unwanted pregnancy because this method isn’t as effective as other forms of birth control.[50]
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    Make a final decision. After you’ve explored the different birth control methods, make an informed decision which option is best for you. Not only should you talk to your partner, but also consult with your doctor, who will need to prescribe methods such as birth control pills, LARCs, and sterilization.

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Categories: Women’s Health