Surgical Abortion

This article is taken from University of California at Santa Barbara

Suction Aspiration abortion, also known as Vacuum Aspiration, is the most common method of surgical abortion in practice today and is generally performed up to 14 weeks of gestation. This is the most common abortion procedure and this method accounts for the vast majority of first trimester abortions. This is performed on an outpatient basis and usually requires only local anesthetic. Most women feel little discomfort with this injection, since the cervix has very few nerve endings, although some report a pinching, stinging, or a dull heavy feeling. First, a physician determines the location and size of the uterus by performing a pelvic exam. A speculum is then inserted into the vagina to visualize the cervix, then the area is cleansed. This is done to allow for the insertion of a hollow tube- called a vacurette-up through the hole in the cervix. The vacurette, which is attached to a flexible tube leading to the vacuum aspiration machine, is inserted into the uterus. The physician moves the vacurette back and forth gently in the uterus as the uterine contents are emptied. The physician will then carefully check the walls of the uterus with a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. The entire procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes. It may cause some cramping and vaginal bleeding, which is normal and varies with each woman.

The risks associated with this type of abortion are low and depend on how far along the pregnancy is, along with the overall health factors of the woman. The most common problems that occur from this type of abortion include blood clots, very heavy bleeding, injury to the cervix, allergic reaction to the anesthesia, and infection; but the risks of all these are low.

After the abortion it is recommended to wait in the recovery room and receive after-care instructions and an emergency care phone number. If the woman has an Rh-negative blood type, she will be given an injection to protect future pregnancies. A follow up exam in 2 to 4 weeks is also usually scheduled at this time.

A normal menstrual period can be expected 4 to 6 weeks following the abortion. It is recommended to abstain from sex for one week following the abortion, after which time intercourse can be continued. It is possible to become pregnant immediately after an abortion, so it is important to use proper birth control methods when having sexual intercourse.

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