There are two methods of vacuum aspiration
(also called suction aspiration):
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:
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.
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Guttmacher Institute (2011). In Brief: Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. Available online:
August 31, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Rebecca H. Allen, MD, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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