About FPA

How long has FPA been in business?

Family Planning Associates has been providing professional abortion services to the Chicagoland area since 1988.

Do you have any female physicians available?

At FPA we work with both male and female physicians. Our Associate Medical Director, Dr. Allison Cowett, is female and she is our primary physician. A female clinician will perform your pre-operative examination and female staff members will be with you during your surgery and in the recovery area. If you strongly prefer to be seen by a female physician, please let our staff know and we will make every effort to accommodate your request.

Do you offer free pregnancy testing?

Yes. We offer a free urine pregnancy test, which can detect pregnancy often as early as 10 days after conception. All urine pregnancy testing is performed on a walk-in basis during regular business hours.


Confidentiality

Is everything confidential?

All of our services are completely confidential. Please read our privacy policy for more information.

If you have a unique concern or special request to help protect your privacy, please inform our staff. 

Do I have to give you my real name?

Yes. We will take a copy of your photo ID when you arrive for your visit. All of your medical records are completely confidential and if you ever request a copy or transfer of your records, we will require picture identification and your signature as part of your authorization for release.

It is always important to give accurate and current information to any physician that you see for medical care. Your correct name, address, phone number and medical history are important for many reasons, particularly in case of an emergency or an abnormal lab result requiring follow-up care. 

Will my parents find out?

We recommend that you talk to a parent or adult in your life, but we do not disclose any of your medical information without your permission.

In the state of Illinois, if you are under the age of 18, you must obtain a judicial bypass or notify an ‘adult family member’ before you have an abortion procedure. The adult family member does not have to agree with your decision or give you permission to have an abortion. 

An ‘adult family member’ can be your mother, father, a grandparent, a step-parent who lives in the home or a legal guardian. You get to choose who is notified and how they are notified. If the adult family member cannot come with you to your visit they can give you a letter to bring with you (which you can print or copy from our website) or we can notify them by telephone (this must be done at least 48 hours before your visit).

If you cannot inform an adult family member about your decision to have an abortion, it is possible for you to obtain a judicial bypass. A judicial bypass is an order, given by a judge, that allows a minor to have an abortion procedure without notifying an adult family member. The Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project can help you find a lawyer who will help you obtain a judicial bypass at no cost. You can call or text them at: (312) 560-6607 or email them at judicialbypass@aclu-il.org.

If you have questions or concerns please let our staff know, we are happy to help you explore your options. Your privacy is important to us and we want to help you find an option that makes you feel comfortable.

If a patient is a minor, do they need to have parental consent to have an abortion?

While we do not have a parental consent law in Illinois, we do have an ‘Adult Family Member Notification’ law in effect. This means that an adult family member must be informed that you are going to have an abortion procedure–they do not have to agree with your decision or give you permission to have an abortion.

An ‘adult family member’ can be your mother, father, a grandparent, a step-parent who lives in the home or a legal guardian. You get to choose who is notified and how they are notified. If the adult family member cannot come with you to your visit they can give you a letter to bring with you (which you can print or copy from our website) or we can notify them by telephone (this must be done at least 48 hours before your visit).

If you cannot inform an adult family member about your decision to have an abortion, it is possible for you to obtain a judicial bypass. A judicial bypass is an order, given by a judge, that allows a minor to have an abortion procedure without notifying an adult family member. The Illinois Judicial Bypass Coordination Project can help you find a lawyer who will help you obtain a judicial bypass at no cost. You can call or text them at: (312) 560-6607 or email them at judicialbypass@aclu-il.org.

If you have questions or concerns please let our staff know, we are happy to help you explore your options. Your privacy is important to us and we want to help you find an option that makes you feel comfortable.

Does my partner need to know?

No. Your partner does not need to know about your medical care if you do not feel comfortable discussing it with them. Your services with our facility are completely confidential.

Are there any protesters at the office?

There may be protesters at our facility on the day of your visit. In our experience the protesters who come to our offices are not violent. According to a 2009 ordinance in Chicago, within 50 feet of the clinic entrance, protesters must stay 8 feet or more away from you, unless they have your permission to approach you at a closer distance.

You do not have to speak with the protesters if you do not want to or take anything from them. Protesters cannot stop you to speak with them or prevent you from entering the facility, including the parking lot. We have clinic escorts at our facility on most surgery days. Clinic escorts are available to help patients enter our facility safely. Our clinic escorts wear bright pink vests that say ‘Clinic Escort’, please let them know if you need assistance.


Making an Appointment

Do I have to make an appointment for an abortion?

Yes. We recommend scheduling an appointment because our facilities offer different kinds of appointments on different days. Most often some instructions are needed in order for you to prepare for your visit as well. 

We will make every effort to accommodate same day appointment requests. 

How soon can I get an appointment?

Appointments are available for the same day or the following day, depending on our surgery schedule. We are very flexible with our schedule and will make every effort to accommodate your request.

Do I need to see my doctor for a pregnancy test or ultrasound before my appointment?

No. A pregnancy test and ultrasound will be performed in our office when you arrive for your appointment.


General Questions about Abortion

Up to how many weeks do you terminate a pregnancy?

FPA provides abortion procedures to 23.3 weeks of pregnancy.

How early can I terminate a pregnancy?

In most cases an abortion can be performed once a urine pregnancy test shows a positive result. The pregnancy must be visible on ultrasound, which usually happens around 5 to 6 weeks, in order for an abortion procedure to be performed. This is true both for the surgical abortion and the abortion pill procedure. 

Do you provide the “Morning After Pill”?

FPA does not sell the Morning After Pill, but it is available over the counter at your local pharmacy for women age 15 and older. Sometimes it is also called ‘Plan B’. You may need to ask for the medication at the pharmacy window, since they are sometimes kept behind the counter and not on store shelves–just like some cold and allergy medications. If you are younger than 15, you will need a prescription. Just call our facility and we will be happy to help you.

What is the difference between the surgical abortion and the abortion pill?

A first trimester surgical abortion, or D&C (Dilation and Curettage), is a 5-7 minute surgical procedure where the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) is dilated (opened) and a gentle suction is used to empty the uterus. A D&C can be performed up to 13.6 weeks gestation.

The non-surgical abortion, or ‘abortion pill’ procedure, uses two medications to induce a miscarriage at home. With the medication abortion it is normal to have heavy cramping and bleeding while you pass the pregnancy. We do provide pain medication with this procedure to help minimize your discomfort. The abortion pill procedure is offered up to 10.0 weeks gestation.

When will I have my next period?

Normally, your regular menstrual cycle will resume 4 to 8 weeks after an abortion procedure. Please note that some birth control methods can significantly change your menstrual cycle. 

If you do not have a period within 8 weeks, please call us and we will schedule a follow-up visit for you at your convenience.

What happens if I have some complications or problems after my abortion?

We have a team of medical professionals at FPA who are well trained and have many years of experience providing abortion care. While complications are rare, they are possible and we are prepared to handle these situations.  

We also have professional medical staff on-call and available to our patients 24 hours every day, including weekends and holidays. If you have emergent questions or are experiencing post-operative problems, please call the clinic directly or use our toll-free number (800-541-0356) at any hour of the day or night. Our trained staff will speak with you and may ask that you return to our clinic for evaluation.

Is it safe to have an abortion procedure?

An abortion is an extremely safe surgical procedure. Less than 1% of patients experience any complications at all. Fewer risks exist with abortion than childbirth. Our physicians are highly skilled and specialize in this procedure. 

For more information about safety and abortion care from unbiased, trusted outside organizations please see our ‘Helpful Links’ page. 

Will somebody talk to me before the procedure?

Yes. Our admitting staff will review your options and medical history, pre- and post- operative instructions, method of payment and birth control information. Our clinician will perform a physical examination prior to the procedure and will answer any additional questions you may have. Lastly, you will meet the physician before your surgery and have the opportunity to ask them questions as well. 

How will you know how far I am in my pregnancy?

At FPA, you will have an ultrasound to determine the size and gestation of the pregnancy. 

What if I have a negative blood type (Rh negative)?

A blood test performed in our lab that will determine your Rh factor. If your blood is Rh negative, you will be given an injection of MICRhoGAM or RhoGAM, depending on your gestation, following the procedure. There is no additional fee for this injection at FPA. 

How will I feel emotionally after the abortion?

In our experience, the majority of our patients feel relieved after the procedure. It is also normal to feel anger, guilt and regret–every patient is unique and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel. We understand that abortion is a complex decision and we are sensitive to your feelings before and after the procedure. We are grateful that we can offer women a safe solution for undesired or problematic pregnancies. If you are struggling with your decision, before or after the procedure, please know that help and support is just a phone call away. It can be very helpful to speak with someone outside of your everyday life–someone who is just there to listen without judgment or providing pressure. 

We recommend the following organizations for free, unbiased support. You will find additional information about these organizations and links to their websites on our ‘Helpful Links’ page: 

Backline: (888) 493-0092, Exhale: (866) 4-EXHALE or Faith Aloud: (888) 717-5010

What if I do not get my period soon after the abortion?

In most cases, your menstrual cycle will begin 4-8 weeks after the abortion. If you do not have a period within 8 weeks, please call us and we will schedule a follow-up visit for you at your convenience.

Please note that it is possible to become pregnant again immediately following an abortion procedure–within just a few weeks in some cases. If you do not start on a method of birth control immediately following your procedure, you could become pregnant before you have a period. 


Birth Control

Do you provide me with birth control?

Yes. We offer birth control to our patients immediately after the abortion, if they are medically eligible. The clinician and physician will evaluate your needs and assist you with finding an appropriate birth control method. In most cases we provide one full year of birth control. 

 

When do I start my birth control?

In most cases, you should start your birth control on the first Sunday after your abortion procedure unless you are provided different instructions by our medical staff on the day of your visit. 

Starting birth control as soon as you can after your procedure may help to reduce the amount of bleeding you have after an abortion and it will often help regulate your periods sooner. If you do not start your birth control right away after your procedure it is possible for you to become pregnant again within just a few weeks of the abortion. 

Can I have an IUD (Mirena, Sklya or Paragard) inserted right away after the abortion?

Yes, we provide intrauterine device (such as the Mirena, Skyla and Paragard) insertions immediately following an abortion procedure. One of the benefits of having an IUD inserted on the same day as an abortion procedure is that we can insert the IUD while you are still under sedation, so you will not feel any discomfort during the insertion. 

If you are having the abortion pill procedure, we can insert an IUD on the day of your required follow up visit, in most cases. 

An IUD is one of the most effective forms of birth control available. Please see our ‘Helpful Links’ page for more information about your IUD options. Most private insurance companies cover birth control, including an IUD. If you are not using your insurance for the abortion procedure, we are still happy to check your insurance for birth control coverage. 

What kind of birth control is best for me?

Finding the ‘best’ birth control method can take some time. Your needs and preferences are unique to you. Your sister may really like the ‘depo shot’ but you might prefer birth control pills or a Mirena IUD. Every woman is different–keep in mind that you may need to try a couple different methods before you find the right birth control for you! 

We recommend that you explore your options before you come in for your visit. You can go to our ‘Helpful Links’ page for more information on birth control options.

Keep in mind that most birth control methods do not help to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV and chlamydia. It is important to use a condom every time you have sex to protect yourself, especially if you or your partner have more than one sex partner. Some STDs are viruses can cannot be cured which means that they will never ‘go away’. If you have an STD and it is not treated quickly, it can make it harder for you to become pregnant in the future (infertility). At FPA we provide STD testing and referrals for free STD testing at your request. 

 


About Surgical Abortion

What is the difference between local anesthesia and sedation?

Local anesthesia is a cervical block (injection of numbing medication) performed before your surgery. While your cervix will be numbed, you will be awake during the surgery and it is normal to feel some strong cramping and discomfort.

Sedation is administered intravenously through an IV placed in your hand or arm in most cases. If you are sedated for your surgery you will not feel or remember any pain or discomfort during the procedure.

Will it hurt?

If you have chosen to have sedation, you will not feel or remember any pain during your procedure. After the procedure you may experience mild to moderate cramping, if needed we will give you pain medication. 

If you have chosen to have local anesthesia with your procedure we will numb your cervix but you will feel some cramping, pain and pressure from the uterus. Some patients describe the pain as minimal while some patients find the pain to be more severe. You will be offered pain medication, and in some cases we can provide you a medication to help you feel more relaxed. 

Once you are discharged, in most cases ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol/Midol) will help with the cramping. If the cramping is not helped by these over the counter medications, you should call us immediately. 

How long will I be under sedation?

You will be unaware for about 5-10 minutes with a first trimester abortion, or about 10-20 minutes with a second trimester abortion. The medications used for sedation work very quickly and wear off very quickly as well. Most patients are alert and oriented within 5 minutes of their procedure. 

I am afraid I won’t wake up after having sedation. Can that happen?

The sedation that we offer is safe, effective and short acting. You will be asleep for 5-20 minutes depending on the procedure. There is always some degree of risk with any surgery. Serious complications with sedation are very rare in our facilities. Complications may occur if a patient has ingested any food or liquid within 8 hours of surgery. Tell our staff if you have had prior complications with anesthesia or if you have had anything to eat or drink within 8 hours prior to your surgery, including gum and water.

How long will I bleed after surgery?

In most cases, the patient experiences bleeding for up to 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery. However, some patients do not experience any bleeding and other patients have spotting or bleeding off and on. If you have any questions about what is normal after your surgery, you can always call the clinic. A 24-hour on-call service is available for after hours.

How is the surgery performed?

The first trimester surgery is a simple procedure performed by aspiration (suction). This procedure is referred to as a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) and is a method to empty the contents of the uterus. This procedure takes about 3 to 5 minutes.

If you are over 13 weeks pregnant, you will first have your cervix dilated with a sterile product made specifically for cervical dilation. You will return for the actual surgery on the second or third day. This procedure is referred to as a D&E (Dilation and Extraction). In some cases, a patient will require two consecutive days of dilation and will return for the surgery on the third day. The dilation procedure takes a few minutes and you will be in the clinic for a few hours on the day or days that your cervix is dilated. In some cases, we can administer a medication on the morning of your surgery that will soften and dilate the cervix without the need for insertion of dilators the day before.

When can I return to work?

The majority of our patients return to work or school the following day. The admitting and medical staff will explain the DOs and DON’Ts after surgery.

Can I have someone come into the surgery or recovery room with me?

Your driver, friend or family member may not enter the surgery or recovery room with you, as we must protect the privacy of all of our patients. We encourage your driver to wait for you in our reception area. If this is not possible, your driver can return for you upon completion of your appointment. It is important that your driver wait for you until your medical history and physical exam have been completed.

After surgery, when can I have sex?

You should not have sex for two weeks after your procedure. We recommend that you abstain from sexual activity for two weeks because you are more susceptible to infection following your procedure.

Can I take a taxi or public transportation home?

Taking public transportation after surgery is not recommended. If no other method of transportation is available, we require that an adult must accompany you.

Can I use tampons after my surgery?

You should not use tampons for two weeks after surgery. Sanitary napkins should be used to decrease the possibility of infection and to monitor the amount of bleeding.

How effective is a surgical abortion?

In most cases, a surgical abortion is nearly 100% effective. In less than 0.3% of cases, a pregnancy is not terminated on the first attempt. Such a failure is most common in pregnancies of less than six weeks’ duration. A very small percentage of surgical cases will require a re-aspiration if unusual bleeding occurs or if there is retained pregnancy tissue.

How will I feel after my surgical abortion?

Most patients feel very ‘normal’ when they leave the office after having an abortion. You will probably be hungry and maybe a little more tired than normal. We recommend that you have a full meal and then take it easy for the rest of the day. It is normal to experience some mild to moderate cramping. If the cramping is not helped by over the counter medications such as Tylenol, Advil or Aleve we ask that you call our 24-hour emergency number. The bleeding is usually comparable to a normal period and some patients do not have any bleeding at all. If at any point you soak one full maxi-pad in an hour or less you should call us immediately.

If you have had pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, fatigue or breast tenderness, these symptoms will start to go away within a few days of the procedure. If you still ‘feel pregnant’ after a few days, you should call us right away. 

You may take a shower or tub bath after surgery. Do not douche, use tampons, have intercourse, or place anything in the vagina for two weeks after having a surgical abortion. Avoid any products that contain aspirin or alcohol as they can promote heavier bleeding.

Why can’t I eat before surgery?

When sedation is provided, gag reflexes are temporarily suppressed. If food or liquid remain in the stomach vomiting can occur, resulting in asphyxiation (choking). This can cause serious complications and in very rare cases death. Please inform our staff if you have had anything at all to eat or drink on the day of your surgery. 

Is it a doctor who performs the surgery?

Yes. All of our doctors are licensed by the State of Illinois, are board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and specialize in pregnancy termination.

What happens to the pregnancy tissue removed during the abortion?

The pregnancy tissue that is removed during the procedure is sent to a pathology laboratory where it is weighed and examined, most often microscopically. A report detailing this examination is sent to our office within a week of the procedure. The tissue then disposed of in accordance with the mandates of state law–most often this means it will be cremated (incinerated).

How will I know that the abortion was successful?

Our physicians at FPA are very thorough and take multiple steps to ensure that the abortion procedure is complete. First, the physician will examine the pregnancy tissue after the surgery. Second, a post-operative ultrasound can be performed at the request of the physician. Third, the pregnancy tissue that is removed during the procedure is sent to a pathology laboratory where it is weighed and examined, most often microscopically. A report, detailing this examination, is sent to our office within a week of the procedure. After reviewing the pathology reports the physician decides whether a follow up visit is needed. We will contact you if the physician requests that you come in for an evaluation. We want to ensure that your pregnancy hormones are falling at the appropriate rate and that you are recovering well. Lastly, in some cases if you are very early in the pregnancy at the time of your surgery, the doctor may request that you return to the clinic 2-3 days after your abortion for a blood test to ensure that the procedure was successful. 

Can I exercise after an abortion procedure?

Most often you can go back to your regular activities the day after your procedure. Strenuous exercise can sometimes increase the amount of bleeding and cramping that you experience. If you notice an increase in your bleeding or cramping after exercising you may want to decrease your activity for a few days. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. If at any point you fully soak a maxi-pad in one hour or less, after your procedure, you should call us right away. 


About the Abortion Pill

What is the abortion pill?

The ‘abortion pill’ is a non-surgical method used to terminate a pregnancy. This method is available for women under 10.0 weeks of pregnancy.

With the ‘abortion pill’ procedure, a set of two medications are taken over the course of two days to induce a miscarriage at home. On the first day you will come into the facility, fill out paperwork, have lab work, an exam and an ultrasound, go over your paperwork with one of our staff members and then take the first medication while you are in our office. The first medication terminates the pregnancy and then 24-36 hours later, at home, you will take the second medication. The second medication softens the cervix and induces uterine contractions, which the pregnancy to pass. It is normal to feel cramping, have moderate to heavy bleeding, and to pass large blood clots during this process. A follow up visit is required 1-2 weeks later in order to confirm that the ‘abortion pill’ was successful and that you are no longer pregnant. 

Will it hurt?

After taking the abortion pill, you may experience moderate to severe cramping while passing the pregnancy. In most cases ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil/Midol), naproxen (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) will alleviate the cramping. If medically appropriate, we will also give you a prescription for a stronger pain reliever, such as Tylenol with codeine for additional pain relief. 

How will I know that the abortion was successful?

The only way to know if the abortion was successful is to return for your follow-up visit 1-2 weeks later. In our experience, it is possible to have heavy bleeding and cramping and pass clots, yet still be pregnant. In very rare cases, the pregnancy can continue to grow and progress after taking the ‘abortion pill’. This is why it is so important to return within a few weeks of your procedure. 

What if the pill doesn’t work?

In a small percentage of cases, the medication abortion does not successfully cause a miscarriage. In these cases, the patient will require additional medications and medical treatment or a surgical abortion. Any additional care is covered by your initial payment provided that you return for evaluation and treatment in a timely manner.

Can I exercise after taking the pill?

You should not exercise after taking the pill until you return for you follow-up visit. The clinician will advise you at that time when you can resume physical activity.

Most often you can go back to your regular activities within a week of your procedure. Strenuous exercise can sometimes increase the amount of bleeding and cramping that you experience. If you notice an increase in your bleeding or cramping after exercising you may want to decrease your activity for a few days. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. If at any point you fully soak a maxi-pad in one hour or less you should call us right away. We have a 24-hour call service in case of emergent concerns or questions. 

How long will I bleed after taking the pill?

In some cases patients can have period like bleeding for up to 2 to 3 weeks after taking the abortion pill. Bleeding can range from very light spotting to a flow heavier than a normal period. If you ever fully soak one pad in an hour or less, or if you have any questions about what is normal after your abortion, you can always call our office. We have a 24-hour on-call service in case of emergent questions and concerns.

Can I use tampons after taking the abortion pill?

You should not use tampons for two weeks after taking the abortion pill. Sanitary napkins should be used to decrease the possibility of infection and help you to monitor how much bleeding you are having more closely. 

How effective is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill is 95-98% effective. This means that 5 to 8 out of every 100 woman who take the abortion pill will need additional medications, medical treatment and/or a surgical procedure to complete the abortion. This is why it is so important for you to return for your follow up visit after taking the medication. 

When can I return to school or work?

You will take the Mifeprex in our office on ‘day one’ after having an exam, ultrasound, lab work and signing consents. You can go to work, school or make other plans that day, it is very rare that you would start to bleed or pass the pregnancy after taking the first medicine alone. You should make arrangements to be at home on ‘day two’ for at least 24 hours after taking the Cytotec (the second medication). The bleeding and cramping is moderate to heavy for most women and you should not be at school or work while you are passing the pregnancy. In most cases you can return to your regular obligations and activities the following day.

If I can’t come back to FPA for my follow-up appointment, can I just see my doctor or take a home pregnancy test?

By consenting to take the abortion pill at FPA, you also commit to returning to our office for your follow-up appointment. If you know that you are unable to return to see us, you should not take the abortion pill with us. In order to confirm that the abortion is complete, it is necessary for us to do an ultrasound. The abortion pill procedure is not 100% effective. If the abortion is not complete, only FPA can provide you with the additional medications or services needed to complete it. Home pregnancy tests can remain positive for over a month in some cases.

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