A surgical abortion is a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. The gestational age determines the type of abortion procedure indicated.
How are Abortions Done?
1st Trimester Surgical Abortion (Suction and Aspiration or D & C) | Up to 13 weeks
Your abortion provider may give you medication for pain and possibly sedation. After examining your uterus this is the procedure:
- A speculum is inserted to open the vagina.
- A local anesthetic is administered to the 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.
2nd Trimester Surgical Abortion (Dilation and Evacuation or D & E) | Between 14 & 24 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.
- A suction cannula is inserted to remove tissue away from the lining.
- Using a curette, 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.
3rd Trimester Surgical Abortion (Induction Abortion) | Between 25 & 40 weeks
Before an induction abortion, your abortion provider will need to prepare your cervix. You may get medication to help open the cervix. Small dilator sticks called a laminaria will be used to stretch open your cervix a day before the procedure.
- You may need to make an additional trip to the abortion facility to insert new and larger laminaria to help stretch the cervix further.
- You will receive an injection with the medications (digoxin and potassium chloride) either injected into the umbilical cord, amniotic fluid, or directly into the baby’s heart to cause death.
- It is at this time that you will likely be given contraction-inducing drugs.
- You will go home (or to a hotel if traveling) to wait for the contractions to become consistent enough to deliver the baby. Then you will return to the abortion facility to deliver the baby.
- If the baby does not come out whole, a combination of medical tools will be used to remove it from your uterus (D & E).
This process takes 3-4 days.
What are the Risks and Side Effects?
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
If you’re considering abortion, Pregnancy Center Plus is a great place to receive evidence-based abortion information. All our services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and options information are offered free of charge and are completely confidential.
Do not allow anyone to pressure you into having an abortion. Laws prohibit the father, guardian, parent, or the courts from forcing you to have an abortion. Do not rush into an abortion if you are having doubts about the decision or procedure.
It is important to remember that abortion is a medical procedure. Take the time to get the facts. You owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.