History of Abortion

The need for abortion has been present since ancient times. It has also been a necessity in almost every culture. However, the attitude towards terminating a pregnancy has varied across different times and cultures.

Abortion Center of Orange County

Abortion in the Ancient World:

There are documented methods of ending a gestation in ancient Egypt around 1500 BCE, as well as in ancient China at about 500 BCE. In those times, it was not achieved surgically, but rather by using either physical acts thought to cause miscarriage or taking herbs / medicines.

The physical methods used typically involved heavy physical activity. These included brisk walking or running, climbing, diving under water, lifting heavy weights, horseback riding, or swimming. Greeks used to encourage repeatedly jumping up and down, with an attempt to touch the heels to the buttocks. Other than heavy exercising, other attempts to induce a miscarriage included pouring hot water into the belly, draining of blood, or limiting food intake. Sometimes rectal enemas as well as placement of a pessary inside the vagina were prescribed.

In England it was believed that pressure across the abdomen and pelvis could cause the fetus to expel. Tight belts and pressure garments were worn in hope of causing a miscarriage.

Medical Abortion:

Medicinal herbs have also been utilized long ago to induce a miscarriage. Some of the plants previously used for this purpose included rue, hellebore, scammony, and birthwort. The use of these agents have been common in the East as well as Western countries. Although some of these are actual abortifacients, others do not work at all. Most are quite dangerous and poisonous.

Surgical Termination:

The use of the surgical procedure was very limited in ancient times. Since proper technique was not yet well developed, and proper instruments not utilized, safe dilation and curettage was not widely available. Being uninformed of appropriate sterile procedure also made infection risk very high. As a result, about a quarter of women that had a procedure would die. Interestingly, the instruments used were remarkably similar to some of those used in modern times, but were unsafe because of differing manufacturing processes as compared to today’s methods.

Effectiveness and Safety of Ancient Methods:

Some of the previously mentioned attempts of pregnancy termination were obviously wrong and ineffective, such as the physical exertion, drainage of blood, fasting, or jumping. However, others were somewhat effective, namely the medical / herbal concoctions, as well as the surgical procedure for pregnancy termination. Though they worked, they were also very unsafe. Fortunately, we now live in a world that offers medical and surgical options that are both effective and safe.

(Please note that this article describes some of the historical accounts of abortion, and is not intended to instruct you on do-it-yourself. Most of the described attempted ways to cause pregnancy termination either don’t work or are very dangerous. Never try any of these yourself, and if you need an abortion, seek the help of a medical doctor or provider that specializes in family planning services.)

Learn more about abortion risks here. 

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Our core value is one of respect, inclusiveness, and empathy.

We are a community women’s clinic and abortion center that provides low cost, affordable reproductive health care for the women of Southern California, located in Santa Ana, Orange County.

Surgical Abortion Process

Prior to the cervical dilation process, a local anesthetic is given to numb the cervix and minimize discomfort. Lidocaine is circumferentially injected around the cervix, providing a cervical block of the nerves that arise from the cervix. We do not recommend general anesthesia (going to sleep), because inducing severe sedation can jeopardize the body’s normal reflexes and cause loss of breathing, which is potentially dangerous. Since the procedure is relatively quick and minor, the safest way to achieve pregnancy elimination by is with local anesthesia.

During this process, the cervix has to be opened in order to obtain access to the uterus. This can be accomplished via mechanical means, chemical means, or both.

Dilators are utilized to physically open the cervix sequentially, starting at a low caliper and slowly moving upwards. Laminaria are small objects that also open the cervix mechanically, and are made of a type of seaweed plant. Prostaglandin is utilized to soften and open the cervix chemically. The amount of dilation depends on the gestation of the pregnancy. The further along the pregnancy, the higher the caliper of dilation in order to be able to terminate it.

A small curette (plastic catheter) is then passed into the uterus, and using suction, the contents of the uterus are evacuated.

Surgical Abortion FAQ

The cost depends on the age of the conception. It is lowest whenever it is less than 9 weeks of pregnancy (up to 9 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period). After that, the cost increases for each additional week. It is best to call us at 714-966-9094 to get a more exact cost. On the day of your visit we will have to perform an ultrasound to determine the exact age of the conception. The fee is all inclusive, and includes the cost of blood work, medications administered during the procedure, ultrasound examination, local anesthesia, as well as post operative follow up visit.

As with any surgery, it does carry some risk. Although terminations are usually very safe, there is a small risk of infection, bleeding, uterine perforation, blood transfusion, hospitalization, hysterectomy, sterility, or even death. However, the risks of such events are low, and in experienced hands are very low. Such risks must be weighed against the risks of continuing the conception, which carries risks that are similar or higher in likelihood. The risks for the pill are less, which is the reason we recommend it over the surgery if you are early enough and a candidate to take it.

The answer is possibly, although highly unlikely. If one of the above complications occurr, there is an increased likelihood of infertility in the future. However, since such events are rare, the likelihood of future infertility is also rare

In most cases, mild cramps and slight vaginal bleeding is the extent of all that is expected afterwards. Some discomfort and cramping is normal, as is some bleeding. The bleeding usually lightens significantly or ceases within 2-3 weeks. If the bleeding is heavier than a period, or lasts longer than 3 weeks, you should seek an evaluation by us. If the pain is severe, or you notice heavy discharge or fevers or chills, contact us.

The typical options include general and local anesthesia. General anesthesia presents a higher risk of death, aspiration pneumonia, uterine perforation, and vaginal bleeding. Therefore, for safety reasons, we do not offer general anesthesia. We have found that local anesthesia is safer and provides adequate pain relief during the process. Local anesthesia is sometimes combined with a mild sedative / tranquilizer, and provides adequate pain relief.

It is best to be accompanied by another adult, and ideally to have that adult be able to drive you. We do not recommend that you drive, walk home, or take the bus by yourself.

You may have someone accompany you while in the waiting lobby. However, we request that only one support person accompany each patient. Also, both for safety as well as confidentiality reasons, non-patients are not permitted in the recovery area or procedure room.

The actual surgical procedure takes no more than 30 minutes. However, preparing you for the procedure takes much longer, since a history and exam must be performed, as well as paperwork, blood work, an ultrasound, and time to observe you afterwards. The bulk of the time spent is allowing the pre-operative medications, including antibiotics and those that prepare the uterus to take effect. All together, plan on spending at least 5-6 hours at our medical clinic if you plan to have the surgical procedure.

A follow up visit is always recommended between 3 to 4 weeks later. This is necessary to ensure that it was successful, as well as to address any problems that may have arisen. Occasionally, some pregnancy tissue may have been retained, and this needs to be evacuated. Therefore, a follow up visit at our medical clinic is very important to ensure that the unplanned pregnancy has completely resolved without any problems.

Although we welcome walk-in patients and try to accommodate them as much as possible, we cannot guarantee that they will be seen that day. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you obtain an appointment.

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