You’re pregnant. It wasn’t your plan for this to be happening at this time. You need to decide what to do next, and you’re looking for information. You’re aware that a surgical abortion procedure is one of your options, and you want to learn enough to be certain whether it’s the right option for you. First of all, we applaud you for exploring your options. What you are facing now is not easy, and it’s important to learn all you can about those options so you can make your best possible decision. At Avenue Women’s Center, we understand that every woman’s situation is unique. The only person who can determine the best possible decision for you is you. At the same time, we understand how helpful it is to work with someone who can provide needed information and act as a sounding board as you weigh the options before you. Our experienced, nonjudgmental pregnancy consultants are prepared to do that. Many of our services are free of charge to you. May we serve you in this way? We’ll continue here with some basic information about surgical abortion procedures, and we hope that as you finish this article you’ll decide to give us a call to take us up on our offer to make this journey with you.
Surgical Abortion Procedure Basics
In a surgical abortion, a pregnancy is terminated through a procedure that uses surgical instruments to empty the uterus. (There is an abortion option other than surgical: “Medical” or “medication” abortion utilizing the abortion pill, RU-486. Women considering abortion may have reasons why they might choose one over the other. This is another example of how abortion decisions are unique to each individual woman.)
There are two main types of surgical abortion procedure.
- Aspiration or Vacuum Aspiration may also be called Suction Curettage. This procedure is for the first trimester of pregnancy, sometimes performed up to about 16 weeks of the pregnancy, but usually done in the first 12 weeks. In this procedure, a thin tube called a cannula is inserted into the uterus through the vagina and cervix. The tube is connected to a suction device or vacuum pump which will draw out the contents of the uterus. Curettage refers to the scraping of the inside of the uterus with a surgical instrument to be sure that all the tissue is removed.
- Dilation and Evacuation (D & E) is a surgical abortion procedure performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, after 13-16 weeks. This procedure also utilizes the cannula, suction device and the curettage scraping of the uterus as in an Aspiration or Suction Curettage abortion. Because the pregnancy has progressed farther, the cervix must be opened wider. Forceps may also be needed to remove larger pieces of tissue.
Both procedures usually involve dilation of the cervix with laminaria or cervical dilators. The dilation may be done either before or at the time of the procedure.
To alleviate pain, numbing of the cervix by a local or regional anesthetic is generally part of either procedure. If needed, a sedative or general anesthesia may be available, especially when the pregnancy is further advanced.
These procedures are normally done in a clinic, doctor’s office or hospital as an outpatient surgery.
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks. For surgical abortion, these include infection, heavy bleeding, and possible damage to or perforation of the uterus or cervix. In general, the risks are greater the further the pregnancy progresses.
In many states there are restrictions on abortion procedures done in/after the second trimester (often, starting at 24 weeks). The availability of a surgical abortion procedure in pregnancy of 24 weeks or more will be determined by the laws of the state.
We hope this has been a helpful overview of surgical abortion procedures. As we noted earlier, this may have prompted you to think of additional questions about surgical procedures, or any other abortion issues you’d like to explore as you consider your options. Please remember that Avenue Women’s Center is here for you. Our offices are located in Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn / Lombard, Naperville, and Wood Dale, Illinois. You are invited to contact us by phone, text, email or chat to ask your questions or to set a free, private and confidential pregnancy consultation at one of our locations. We hope to be able to help you.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015, May). FAQ043, Special Procedures. Retrieved from: https://www.acog.org/-/media/For Patients/faq043.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20170801T2139553246
- American Pregnancy Association. (2017, January). Surgical Abortion Procedures. Retrieved from: http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/surgical-abortions/
- American Pregnancy Association. (2017, April). Abortion Procedures. Retrieved from: http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/abortion-procedures/
- WebMD. Abortion – Choices: Surgical Abortion. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/abortion-choices-surgical-abortion
Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.