Early Abortion (First Trimester)

Early abortion at a glance

  • An early abortion is the termination of a pregnancy during the first trimester (the first 3 months of pregnancy).
  • Early abortions can be accomplished with medication or surgery.
  • Early abortions require less care and follow-up and are significantly more affordable than later abortions.

What is an early abortion?

An early abortion is the termination of a pregnancy during the first trimester (within the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy). Compared to later abortions, early abortions require less medical attention and follow-up, which makes them significantly more affordable than later abortions.

A pregnancy is in its earliest stages during the first trimester, which provides a variety of abortion options. Early abortions can be performed with surgery or with medication if the pregnancy is less than 10 weeks (measured from the first day of the last menstrual period, and confirmed with ultrasound in our clinic). Having the option of a medical abortion, also called a medication abortion, is a specific benefit of early abortions. After 10 weeks, abortion with medication alone is not feasible, and terminating a pregnancy at this stage requires a surgical procedure.

How is an early abortion performed?

Early abortions in the first trimester can be accomplished with either medication or surgery. Both medical and surgical abortion are safe and effective for most women. Women can discuss both options with our physicians, and choose the best method for them.

Compare medication abortion vs. surgical abortion

Medication abortion

At the Comprehensive Women’s Health Center (CWHC), we offer medical abortions (medication abortions) for pregnancies up to 10 weeks gestation.

A medication abortion uses a combination of two drugs to end a pregnancy. The first drug is mifepristone (brand name Mifeprex), which is used to stop the growth of the pregnancy and weaken its attachment to the uterus. Most of the time this drug is taken in the clinic.

The second drug is misoprostol (brand name Cytotec), which is taken six to 48 hours after mifepristone. This drug is taken at home and causes the uterus to expel the pregnancy. Our doctors make sure that every woman knows exactly what to do and expect before she leaves the clinic to complete the medication abortion process.

As the uterus begins to expel the pregnancy, cramping and bleeding occurs. It is often described as being similar to the stronger, heavier symptoms of a menstrual period. Bleeding and spotting can last several days (up to a few weeks) following a medication abortion.

Seven to 14 days after taking the second drug (misoprostol), it is important for women to come back to the clinic for a follow-up. We will confirm that the abortion is complete using an ultrasound, and can start a method of birth control at this time.

The medication taken during a medical abortion can cause birth defects if the pregnancy does not terminate successfully, which occurs in less than 5 percent of women. For this reason, we strongly recommend surgical abortions if the medical abortion is unsuccessful.

Surgical abortion

Early surgical abortions terminate pregnancy during the first trimester. Surgical abortions, unlike medication abortions, can be performed up to 22 weeks in our clinic. However, surgical abortions performed 12 weeks or earlier (first trimester) are less expensive and have a lower risk of complications than later surgical abortions.

First trimester surgical abortions are performed in the clinic with local anesthesia and optional oral or intravenous pain-relieving medication. During the procedure, a speculum is inserted into the vagina, the cervix (the opening to the uterus) is slightly stretched open, and a small tube is inserted to remove the pregnancy using a suction (or vacuum). The procedure usually only takes 5-10 minutes.

During the surgical abortion and for a short time after, women may experience strong cramping. Bleeding and spotting often occurs for a few days or weeks following the procedure as well.

After a surgical abortion, our health educators provide instructions on how a woman should take care of her body following the procedure. The doctor will also prescribe antibiotics and birth control, if desired.

Follow-up procedures are not required after a surgical abortion unless complications related to the abortion begin to occur. We do recommend that women make an appointment to see a regular physician for an annual Pap smear, physical/gynecologic exam and birth control refill requests.

The Comprehensive Women’s Health Center difference

We are dedicated to providing expert, affordable pregnancy termination. We believe every woman deserves to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of any life circumstances.

Our clinic was founded with three major goals:

  • To provide accessible, high-quality abortion and family planning services in a private, comfortable and sensitive atmosphere.
  • To expand access to abortion services by training future providers.
  • To improve contraception and abortion services through clinical research.

Deciding to have an abortion and the questions that follow

When a woman decides to have an abortion, it is a very personal decision. We recognize that having an abortion may be a difficult choice, and we provide the support and information women need to help make a decision that is right for their individual situation.

The following websites are clear, unbiased resources for women who need help with this choice:

Once a woman has made the decision to have an abortion, many questions follow. The most common ones that we hear are:

  • Is having an abortion safe?
  • Does it hurt?
  • How much will it cost/will insurance cover it?

These questions are normal. We want to make sure that women are fully knowledgeable about the abortion procedure that she chooses and the costs associated with it. We provide answers to all of these questions and more on our Abortion FAQs & Abortion Facts page.

CWHC is conveniently located in central Denver and is integrated into a private women’s health practice, so patients cannot be identified for seeking abortion services.

We also strive to be honest and supportive when it comes to the cost of our services. Some insurance plans cover abortions, but many do not. For this reason, we work with each woman to determine the best payment option for her situation.

If you have questions about early abortions or would like to set up a consultation, please contact us:


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