Frequently Asked Questions -
About Abortion Appointments

How long does it take?

The actual abortion procedure takes only 5-10 minutes for first trimester procedures, and 15-20 minutes for second trimester procedures, depending on gestation.

However, the abortion appointment will last 3-5 hours and will include paperwork, blood draw, laboratory tests on blood and urine, ultrasound examination, counseling about options, birth control, what to expect during and after the abortion, understanding the medications as well as the abortion procedure and giving informed consent, answering all your questions, taking medications or receiving injections, a pelvic examination followed by the medical procedure, and recovery. For second trimester D&E's, appointments will be made on 2 or 3 consecutive days. After the procedure there is in-clinic recovery time of 20-30 minutes for first trimester procedures and about an hour for second trimester procedures. Women who opt for sedation will have a longer in-clinic recovery period the day of their procedure.

What about counseling?

Everyone having an abortion has the opportunity to have all of their questions answered. The clinic will also provide information about birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and referrals to additional resources as needed. If a woman is not completely ready for an abortion, she will not have an abortion that day.

What if I am undecided?

If a woman is undecided, counselors are available for a more-involved "options counseling" session. If you are undecided, ask for "options counseling" when you call to make an appointment. There is a separate fee for this service.

An excellent resource for women who are undecided or not yet ready to make their decision is Pregnancy Options. Website covers all three options -- parenting, abortion, and adoption. Offers emotional "tools" to get clear about how you feel in an easy-to-read format with room for writing, drawing and doodling.

You can also call "Backline" (888-493-0092) a service where you can talk on the phone with a trained volunteer to explore all your options.

Will I have pain?

The pain a woman feels during abortion comes from muscle cramps, similar but stronger than menstrual cramps. Relaxing before and during the procedure will help reduce pain. Depending upon the clinic, clients will work with the Registered Nurse Anesthetist and Medical Doctor to choose from a range of anesthesia sedation options. Sedation helps the woman's muscles relax during the procedure thereby reducing cramping.

If a woman chooses sedation, she must have someone else drive her home.

How should I prepare for an abortion appointment?

Do not use street-drugs for 24-48 hours before your appointment because it could cause a serious interactions with the operative medications if you have other drugs in your system. Avoid aspirin or alcohol for 24 hours prior to your appointment because they thin the blood and may increase bleeding.

Dress in comfortable 2-piece clothing; preferably short sleeved top because your blood pressure will be monitored. Do not eat for 2 hours before your appointment.

Can I bring a friend or my partner with me?

We encourage you to bring a support person with you to the clinic. Out of concern for security, legal issues, and liability, support persons may not be allowed in some parts of the clinic. Ask when you are there.

Are there picketers at the clinic? Will I be safe?

In Renton, our clinic is located within a medical/dental complex. Picketers are not allowed within the interior parking lots or sidewalks, so you can drive in and park without coming in close contact with pickets. Most days there is a single picketer, Sara. She is an older woman with 1-2 large signs near the entrance to the parking lot, but a long way from the door to the building. What to do if you see protesters at the clinic.

In Yakima, frequently there are 3-8 picketers on public sidewalks.

In Tacoma, the door is locked beyond the front entry. You will be "buzzed" in after showing picture identification. There are occasionally pickets who must stay on public sidewalks.

Uniformed security guards may be present. Do not be alarmed. They are for your safety -- as well as ours. The guard will will not allow anyone to enter the building unless they have an appointment or they accompany someone with an appointment. They inspect all purses and bags. DO NOT bring guns or weapons with you. Weapons will be confiscated by the guards.

What about after the abortion?

A normal period should begin in 4-8 weeks. Ovulation can occur at any time after the abortion so birth control is needed to prevent pregnancy. If you are using birth control pills, a backup method is recommended for the first 4 weeks (one cycle) of pills..

To reduce risk of infection in the first 1-2 weeks after an abortion

  • do not have intercourse or douche
  • do not take a tub bath or go swimming
  • avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting (over 15 pounds)
  • avoid alcohol, aspirin and marijuana which may cause heavier bleeding
  • do not use tampons until your next period

If you experience heavy bleeding, call the clinic. Heavy bleeding is defined as when you soak a maxi-pad in less than one hour, for 2 hours in a row.

Some women experience breast engorgement caused by the pregnancy hormones. This is normal. To help this go away, bind the breasts tightly with an ace bandage for several days. Do not touch or simulate the nipples (don't let water pound on them when taking a shower). Engorgement should go away within a few days to a week. Any stimulation such as touching will increase milk production.

We have a 24-hour hotline for abortion clients. We encourage you to call if you have questions or problems.

Schedule a post-abortion checkup at the clinic or with your regular health care provider for 2-3 weeks after your abortion.

Will the clinic give me birth control to use for the future?

The counselors at the clinic discuss your health status and give you options such as birth control pills, Depo Provera, and condoms. For other methods of birth control, such as diaphragm, cervical cap, IUD, you may make an appointment to come back to the clinic at a later time after the abortion.

See our birth control page for more info about each option.

What if I have trouble coping emotionally after the abortion?

If you desire a post-abortion counseling session, just call the clinic to schedule an appointment. This is included in the original fee for abortion.

There are several additional resources for women who wish to explore their post-abortion emotions in a safe space. Check out these websites: Peace After Abortion, After Your Abortion.

There exists a national talkline Exhale at 866-439-4253 -call to talk with a trained professional who will listen to your worries and answer your questions.

See also

For More Information:

Abortion Statistics - the most reliable research on abortion is done by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Q & A about Abortion

Are you pregnant? Reliable information on pregnancy options from the National Abortion Federation

updated June 10, 2011

"Pro-choice gives you a responsibility. If somebody else is making the decision for you, or taking the decision out of your hands, then you don't have the opportunity to be responsible for yourself."

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