Surgical Abortion Procedures
- Surgical Abortion (Suction and Aspiration) | Up to 13 weeks – Your abortion provider will give you medication for pain and possibly sedation during the procedure. A speculum is inserted to open the vagina. A local anesthetic is administered to your cervix to numb it. Then a tenaculum (a surgical instrument with long handles and a clamp at the end) is used to hold the cervix in place. The cervix is then dilated with absorbent rods that vary in size. The rods may also be put in a few days prior to the procedure. When the cervix is wide enough, a cannula (a long plastic tube connected to a suction device) is inserted into the uterus to suction out the fetus and placenta. The procedure usually lasts 10-15 minutes, but recovery can require staying at the clinic for a few hours.
- Surgical Abortion (Dilation and Evacuation or D & E) | After 13 weeks – In most cases, 24 hours prior to the actual procedure, your abortion provider will insert laminaria or a synthetic dilator inside your cervix. When the procedure begins the next day, your abortion provider will use a tenaculum to keep the cervix and uterus in place. Additional laminaria or synthetic dilators will be inserted into your cervix to open it wide enough for the fetal remains to be removed. A shot may be given before the procedure begins to ensure fetal death has occurred. Then a cannula is inserted to remove tissue away from the lining. Then using a curette (a surgical instrument shaped like a spoon), the lining is scraped to remove any residuals. If needed, forceps may be used to remove larger parts. The last step is usually a final suctioning to make sure the contents are completely removed. The procedure normally takes 15-30 minutes. The fetal remains are usually counted and examined to ensure everything was removed and that the abortion was complete.
- Surgical Abortion (Dilation and Evacuation or D & E) | After 24 weeks – The procedure typically takes 2-3 days and is associated with increased risk to the life and health of the mother. Because a live birth is possible, injections are given to cause fetal death. This is done in order to comply with the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 which requires the fetus to be dead before complete removal from the mother’s body. The medications (digoxin and potassium chloride) are either injected into the umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, or directly into the fetus’ heart. Fetal parts are reassembled after removal from the uterus to make sure nothing is left behind to cause infection or bleeding. An alternate technique, called “Intact D & E” is also used. The goal is to remove the fetus in one piece, reducing the risk of leaving body parts behind or of causing damage to the woman’s body. This procedure requires the cervix to be opened wide enough to bring out the fetus head intact.
What are the risks and side effects related to surgical abortions?
Immediate risks and side effects of surgical abortions may include:
- abdominal pain
- anesthesia complications
- damage to the cervix
- heavy or prolonged bleeding
- endotoxic shock
- blood clots
- tearing of the uterine lining
Long-term risks and side effects of surgical abortions may include:
- scar tissue
- increased risk of breast cancer
- increased risk of cervical cancer
- damage to reproductive organs
- increased risk of infertility
- increased risk of miscarriage
Aid for Women does NOT offer abortion services or referrals.