Surgical abortion is a procedure that ends a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the mother's womb (uterus).
Surgical abortion is not the same as miscarriage. Miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends on its own before the 20th week.
Surgical abortion uses a vacuum to remove the fetus and related pregnancy material from the uterus. The procedure is most often done 6 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period or soon afterward when possible.
Before the procedure, you may have the following tests:
During the procedure:
After the procedure, you may be given medicine to help the uterus contract. This reduces bleeding.
Reasons a surgical abortion might be considered include:
The decision to end a pregnancy is very personal. To help you weigh your choices, discuss your feelings with a counselor or health care provider. A family member or friend can also be of help.
Risks of surgical abortion include:
You will stay in a recovery area for a few hours. The health care providers will tell you when you can go home. Because you may still be drowsy from the medicines, arrange ahead of time to have someone pick you up.
Follow instructions for how to care for yourself at home. Make any follow-up appointments.
Complications (problems) rarely occur after this procedure.
Physical recovery usually occurs within a few days, depending on the stage of the pregnancy. Vaginal bleeding can last for a week to 10 days. Cramping usually lasts for a day or two.
You can get pregnant before your next period, which occurs 4-6 weeks after the procedure. Be sure to make arrangements to prevent pregnancy, especially during the first month after the procedure. You may want to talk with your health care provider about emergency contraception.
Suction curettage; Surgical abortion; Elective abortion - surgical; Therapeutic abortion - surgical
Annas GJ, Elias S. Legal and ethical issues in obstetric practice. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 54.
Jensen JT, Mischell Jr DR. Family planning: contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 13.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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