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The doctor must know accurately the stage of a woman's pregnancy before an abortion is performed. The doctor will ask the woman questions about her menstrual cycle and also do a physical examination to confirm the stage of pregnancy. This may be done at an office visit before the abortion or on the day of the abortion. Some states require a waiting period before an abortion can be performed. Others require parental or court consent for a child under age 18 to receive an abortion.
Despite the fact that almost half of all women in the United States have had at least one abortion by the time they reach age 45, abortion is surrounded by controversy. Women often find themselves in emotional turmoil when deciding if an abortion is a procedure they wish to undergo. Pre-abortion counseling is important in helping a woman resolve any questions she may have about having the procedure.
Regardless of the method used to perform the abortion, a woman will be observed for a period of time to make sure her blood pressure is stable and that bleeding is controlled. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection. Women who are Rh negative (lacking genetically determined antigens in their red blood cells that produce immune responses) should be given a human Rh immune globulin (RhoGAM) after the procedure unless the father of the fetus is also Rh negative. This prevents blood incompatibility complications in future pregnancies.
Bleeding will continue for about five days in a surgical abortion and longer in a medical abortion. To decrease the risk of infection, a woman should avoid intercourse and not use tampons and douches for two weeks after the abortion.
A follow-up visit is a necessary part of the woman's aftercare. Contraception will be offered to women who wish to avoid future pregnancies, because menstrual periods normally resume within a few weeks.
Author Info: Debra Gordon, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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