A lethal injection is used to stop your baby's heart ('feticide') and then labour is induced to deliver your dead baby.
Injection and Stillbirth
Late-term abortion (usually weeks 25* – full term)
This procedure takes 2 to 3 days because the baby is so large and developed.
Cervical preparation starts the unnatural opening of the cervix (neck of the womb). Normally it only opens during the birthing process.
It is done in different ways including one or more of the following: medications to be taken and matchstick-sized rods put into the cervix (absorbent dilators that swell - hydrogel or laminaria/seaweed).
This abortion procedure is performed initially, in a similar way to Dilation and Evacuation abortion. Your baby however is not dismembered by forceps but rather delivered (dead) as in natural birth. Wider dilation is needed to bring the whole of your baby’s body out intact or largely intact, instead of pulling it apart in your womb and taking it out piece by piece.
You are given a mifepristone tablet to swallow. Whilst awake, after an extra scan an injection of digoxin or potassium chloride is made into the baby's head, body or heart (or an injection of digoxin into the fluid surrounding them). This is to stop the baby's heart, so the baby isn't born alive.
The baby doesn't die immediately which is why it is done the day before labour is induced. Sometimes the baby is given a muscle relaxant so that the mother can't feel them moving.
Some mothers don't have the lethal injection if their baby's condition means they will die at birth. (Some doctors won't agree to this.)
Day 2 – 3
The next day you will be admitted to a clinic or hospital, and if an ultrasound shows your baby is alive they will be given a second lethal injection.
Misoprostol is administered and contractions continue until your dead baby is delivered. You are awake throughout the process and will be given painkillers and gas and air as needed, much like natural birth.
Average delivery is 6 hours but it may be quicker or in other cases take over 24 hours and you will need to stay in overnight. You might see large blood clots or the baby and placenta during this procedure. The midwife will try to make sure that you see very little, but sometimes this is not possible.
You might be given the opportunity to hold your aborted baby and soon after, cremate or bury them.
If the baby doesn’t come out whole, then the abortion becomes a D&E. (Using clamps and forceps to dismember your baby, removing them piece by piece.)
Occasionally the placenta doesn't pass and a procedure is necessary, usually under general anaesthetic.
Click here to see a video of an MRI scan of a baby at 20 weeks, turning its head, swallowing and stretching its legs in the womb.
At 23 weeks, a baby is considered viable — that is, with proper medical care and attention, he or she would be able to survive outside of the womb.
Click here to see what abortion would do to your baby at 24 weeks.
Physical complications include:
- Heavy bleeding and haemorrhage
- Infection and sepsis
- Injury to the womb or cervix (perforation or laceration)
Emotional potential risks include:
- Sadness and depression
- Anxiety, anger and guilt
- Emotional numbing
- Anniversary grief
- Nightmares or flashbacks of the abortion
- Increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse
- Relationship problems
- Suicidal thoughts
We understand you might wish 'the problem' wasn't there... but every abortion ends a human life. We are here to listen and offer help, please:
Many speak of deep emotional pain, whether immediately or years after an abortion – see FAQ for more information.
If you are suffering distress after abortion, find friendship with others recovering, and peace and hope in Jesus: Post Abortion Support for Everyone – PASE
* Pregnancy weeks on this page are since LMP – last menstrual period