Abortion Procedures
First Trimester Surgical Abortion

Suction Aspiration

This procedure is a common method used in the first 5 to 12 weeks after the last menstrual period.  It involves the use of a hollow tube (cannula) that is attached by tubing to a bottle and a pump, which provides a vacuum.  For this procedure, the physician will:

  • Perform laboratory tests to confirm the pregnancy, test for Rh status, and test for anemia and red blood cell count.
  • Take a medical and obstetrical history, including a history of allergies and all current medications.
  • Examine the uterus and perform an ultrasound to confirm how far along the pregnancy is.
  • Educate the patient about the abortion process, side effects, and clear instructions for assessing emergency services.
  • Administer, in some cases, a medicine to soften the cervix before the procedure.  Medicine for pain or sedation may be given by mouth or administered into a vein.  A medicine that slows uterine bleeding may be given to reduce blood loss.
  • Insert a speculum into the vagina, to hold it open.  The physician cleans the vagina and cervix with an antiseptic solution.  At this time, a numbing agent (local anesthetic) may be injected in the cervix. 
  • Dilate (open) the cervix with either a series of dilators inserted into and withdrawn from the cervix to gradually increase the size of the opening.  In some cases, absorbent dilators may be inserted a day or a few hours before the procedure.
  • Insert a thin tube (cannula) through the cervix into the uterus and a suction machine empties the uterus. 
  • In some cases, a curette is used to scrape the walls of the uterus to make sure the fetus, placenta, and uterine contents have been removed.

Common side effects of Suction Aspiration and Manual Vacuum Aspiration include:

  • Bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Feeling faint

Less frequent complications can include:

  • Heavy or prolonged bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to the cervix
  • Infection due to remaining tissue or infection caused by an STD or bacteria being introduced to the uterus can cause fever, pain, abdominal tenderness and possibly scar tissue

Rare complications can include:

  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Tissue remaining in the uterus (incomplete abortion)
  • Ongoing undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy)
  • Injury to the bowl or bladder
  • Scar tissue in uterus or cervix
  • Infertility due to the consequences of infection
  • Death





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