Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.
Starting (inducing) labor and delivery in the second or third trimester of a pregnancy is done using medicines. Your doctor may also use a medicine to stop your pregnancy before the induction abortion. This is given by injection into the uterus, either through your belly or vagina.
To prevent complications, the cervix may be slowly opened (dilated) with a device called a cervical (osmotic) dilator before the induction is started. Medicines to start early labor can be:
- Inserted into the vagina to start uterine contractions and soften the cervix. This allows uterine contents to pass through the cervix. Vaginal medicines include prostaglandins, such as misoprostol.
- Taken by mouth to start uterine contractions and soften the cervix. These medicines include misoprostol and mifepristone. Your doctor may have you swallow the medicine or let it dissolve under your tongue or between your cheek and gum.
- Injected into a vein (intravenously, or IV) to start uterine contractions. Oxytocin (Pitocin) is commonly used for this purpose.
The different medicines available for an induction abortion may be combined for effectiveness and to decrease the amount of bleeding.
An induction abortion does cause you to go through the stages of labor and delivery. Pain medicines can be used during the procedure.
What To Expect
As your body returns to its nonpregnant condition, there are some things you can expect during the days and weeks after the procedure.
- You may have irregular bleeding or spotting for the first 2 weeks. Use sanitary pads until you stop bleeding. Using pads makes it easier to monitor your bleeding.
- You may have cramps similar to menstrual cramps. They may last for several hours and maybe for a few days as the uterus shrinks back to its nonpregnant size.
Here are some things to do as you recover:
- Rest quietly for the next several days. You can return to your normal activities based on how you feel.
- Ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). They may help relieve cramping pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
- If you don't want to get pregnant, use birth control when you start having sex again.
Why It Is Done
Induction is one option for abortion in the second or third trimester.
- Induction abortion is sometimes offered to women diagnosed in the second or third trimester with a fetus that has severe medical problems or abnormalities.
- A woman may not realize that she is pregnant until later in the pregnancy. When this happens, induction may be necessary for abortion.
- A woman who doesn't have access to an abortion earlier in the pregnancy may need an induction abortion.
How Well It Works
Induction abortion is effective in the second and third trimesters.
Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is more commonly used in second-trimester abortions. It is safer, quicker, and more effective than induction abortion.
The risk of problems from induction abortion is rare. But some problems may include:
- Failure to end the pregnancy.
- Tissue remaining in the uterus.
- Injury to the cervix.
- Uterine rupture if a uterine scar is present from a previous surgery.
- Heavy vaginal bleeding.
Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Rebecca H. Allen MD, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of: February 11, 2021
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.