Surgical abortion is a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy, if you are past 11 weeks. If you’re under 11 weeks, you may be able to get an medical abortion (Abortion Pill).
First Trimester Abortion – Surgical Abortion
First trimester abortion is considered one of the SAFEST outpatient procedures when performed by trained physicians. There are two methods for a first trimester surgical abortion: Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) and Early Standard Vacuum Aspiration (ESVA).
MVA uses a handheld aspirator that gently removes the pregnancy from the uterus, without the usual surgical equipment sounds.
ESVA involves the use of standard procedural equipment with significant above-standard differences in physician training, skill, and comfort for you.
What is surgical abortion?
Surgical abortion is a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy. The information in this guide will help you understand what to expect when choosing a surgical abortion so you can make an informed decision about your medical care.
What you can expect at your clinic visit(s)?
Most visits start with laboratory testing and ultrasound imaging in order to provide basic information for your doctor to review. Once all the necessary labs and tests are completed, you can expect the actual procedure to last less than 10 minutes.
During a surgical abortion both suction and surgical instruments may be used to open your cervix and remove the contents of your uterus.
If you are beyond 14 weeks pregnant, your doctor may recommend inserting dilators on the day prior to your procedure. If you are beyond 18 weeks, your doctor may recommend an injection that induces fetal demise prior to your surgery. After your pain medicine begins to work, your doctor will decide if your cervix is open enough.
If your cervix needs to be dilated (opened), your doctor will stretch it with dilators. Suction is used by putting a small sterile plastic tube into your uterus and connecting it to a hand-held syringe or electric suction machine.
Your doctor may also use a curette (a narrow surgical tool) to remove any remaining tissue. This tissue will be carefully examined to make sure the abortion is complete. You will be taken to a recovery area to rest. Clinic staff will monitor your pain and bleeding to make sure it is safe for you to go home.
Common side effects
For most women, the side effects of a surgical abortion are brief and usually resolve without treatment. Common side effects are light or medium bleeding (similar to a period) that can continue off and on for up to four weeks.
Immediately, after the procedure, you may have cramping similar to a period, but it is usually relieved with ibuprofen. Some women experience fatigue, bloating, headaches, or breast tenderness for up to four weeks after a surgical abortion. It can take 4-6 weeks for the pregnancy hormones to leave your body, and your pregnancy test may remain positive during this time.
You might not be a candidate for an abortion at some clinics in the United States. Be sure to call them and speak with someone in detail over the phone.
If any of the following conditions apply, you are considered high risk for complications and may be referred to a hospital or abortion specialists for your safety:
- Pregnancy more than 22 weeks
- Pregnancy outside of your uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
- Take medication to thin your blood
- Have a bleeding disorder
- Extremely overweight (BMI >60)
- Have uncontrolled asthma, hypertension, severe anemia or heart disease
- Placenta accreta (placenta is embedded in your c-section scar)
- Any other medical condition that your doctor feels would put you at risk
Can I get birth control on the day of my abortion?
Yes! You can start any method of birth control that is safe for you. You may choose to have an IUD or implant inserted during your procedure. You can start to use the shot, pills, patch or ring on the day of your procedure.
What to expect at your follow up visit:
At your follow up visit two weeks after your surgical abortion, you will be evaluated to determine if the abortion was successful and that you are healing well. You might have a transvaginal ultrasound performed and a clinician will speak to you to ensure you no longer have any symptoms of pregnancy.