If you are experiencing a medical emergency please dial 911 immediately
There are two methods of vacuum aspiration (also called suction aspiration):
Manual vacuum aspiration usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes. It can be done safely in a clinic or medical office using local anesthetic and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen. For this procedure, the health professional will:
Hours before or the day before a machine vacuum aspiration procedure, a cervical (osmotic) dilator may be placed in the cervix to slowly open (dilate) it. Just before, antibiotics are given to prevent infection. A medicine called misoprostol may be given to soften the cervix before the procedure.
Machine vacuum aspiration usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes. It can be done safely in a clinic or medical office under local anesthetic. For this procedure, the health professional will:
The tissue removed from the uterus during a vacuum aspiration procedure is examined to make sure that all of the tissue has been removed and the abortion is complete.
Sometimes a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure is needed after a vacuum aspiration if all of the tissue has not been removed. D&C uses a sharp surgical instrument to clear tissue from the uterus.
Vacuum aspiration is a minor surgical procedure. A normal recovery includes:
After the procedure:
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms after an abortion:
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have had any of these symptoms after a recent abortion:
Vacuum aspiration is done in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Vacuum aspiration can be done for:
First-trimester surgical abortions are safe and effective and have few complications.
In rare cases, an aspiration procedure doesn't successfully end a pregnancy. This is more likely to happen during the earliest weeks of a pregnancy.
The risk of complications is low. Some minor complications include:
Rare complications include:
A repeat vacuum aspiration and medicine to stop bleeding are used to treat retained products of conception or blood clots.
It is possible to have an undiagnosed ectopic (tubal) pregnancy that isn't discovered until after an abortion procedure. Although the pregnancy test before the procedure is positive, the pregnancy is not in the uterus. So the abortion method does not end the pregnancy. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy that occur after an abortion procedure can include:
Ectopic pregnancy requires urgent medical care. Call your doctor immediately if you have symptoms of a possible ectopic pregnancy. To learn more, see the topic Ectopic Pregnancy.
Choosing a medical or a surgical procedure for an abortion will depend on your medical history, how many weeks pregnant you are, what options are available where you live, and your personal preferences.
In the United States, vacuum aspiration is the most common method of abortion used within the first 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy. Early in pregnancy through most of the first trimester, a woman can also consider using medicine (medical abortion).
Nearly 90 out of 100 abortions are done in the first trimester of pregnancy.1
The hospital or surgery center may send you instructions on how to get ready for your surgery. Or a nurse may call you with instructions before your surgery.
Right after surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where nurses will care for and observe you. You most likely will stay in the recovery area for a period of time and then you will go home. In addition to any special instructions from your doctor, your nurse will explain information to help you in your recovery. You will go home with a page of care instructions including who to contact if a problem arises.
An abortion rarely affects your ability to become pregnant in the future. So it is possible to become pregnant in the weeks right after the procedure. Avoid sexual intercourse until your body has fully recovered, usually for at least 1 week. Use birth control in the first weeks following the abortion. And use condoms to prevent infection.
Depression can be triggered when pregnancy hormones change after an abortion. If you have more than 2 weeks of symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, sleep or appetite change, or feelings of sadness, emptiness, anxiety, or irritability, see your doctor about treatment.
Last Revised: August 31, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
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