Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion is a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy.


What is surgical abortion?

Surgical abortion is a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy. The information in this guide will help you understand what to expect when choosing a surgical abortion so you can make an informed decision about your medical care.

What should I expect at my visit(s)?

Most visits start with laboratory testing and ultrasound imaging in order to provide basic information for your doctor to review. Once all the necessary labs and tests are completed, you can expect the actual procedure to last less than 10 minutes.

During a surgical abortion both suction and surgical instruments may be used to open your cervix and remove the contents of your uterus.

If you are beyond 14 weeks pregnant, your doctor may recommend inserting dilators on the day prior to your procedure. If you are beyond 18 weeks, your doctor may recommend an injection that induces fetal demise prior to your surgery. After your pain medicine begins to work, your doctor will decide if your cervix is open enough.

If your cervix needs to be dilated (opened), your doctor will stretch it with dilators. Suction is used by putting a small sterile plastic tube into your uterus and connecting it to a hand-held syringe or electric suction machine. Your doctor may also use a curette (a narrow surgical tool) to remove any remaining tissue. This tissue will be carefully examined to make sure the abortion is complete. You will be taken to a recovery area to rest. We will monitor your pain and bleeding to make sure it is safe for you to go home.

Common side effects

For most women, the side effects of a surgical abortion are brief and usually resolve without treatment. Common side effects are light or medium bleeding (similar to a period) that can continue off and on for up to four weeks.

Immediately after the procedure, you may have cramping similar to a period, but it is usually relieved with over-the-counter pain medication. Some women experience fatigue, bloating, headaches, or breast tenderness for up to four weeks after a surgical abortion. It can take 4-6 weeks for the pregnancy hormones to leave your body, and your pregnancy test may remain positive during this time.

You might not be a candidate for abortion at FPA Women’s Health

If any of the following conditions apply, you are considered high risk for complications and will be referred to a hospital for your safety:

  • Pregnancy more than 22 weeks
  • Pregnancy outside of your uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
  • Take medication to thin your blood
  • Have a bleeding disorder
  • Extremely overweight (BMI >60)
  • Have uncontrolled asthma, hypertension, severe anemia or heart disease
  • Placenta accreta (placenta is embedded in your c-section scar)
  • Any other medical condition that your doctor feels would put you at risk

Can I get birth control on the day of my abortion?

Yes! You can start any method of birth control that is safe for you. You may choose to have an IUD or implant inserted during your procedure. You can start to use the shot, pills, patch or ring on the day of your procedure.

Types of anesthesia offered

You have several different options for anesthesia. The anesthesia offered to you will be based on the availability in the surgical office and your medical history.

  • Occasionally women choose to have no anesthesia, which is absolutely fine.
  • Some women choose to have a "paracervical block", which is numbing medicine (Lidocaine) injected into the tissue around the cervix. If you choose a cervical block, you will still experience cramping that is more severe than a period for a few minutes, but you will be able to drive yourself home.
  • Most of our FPA surgical offices offer "moderate sedation" which induces a dream-like state when strong pain and anxiety medications are administered through an IV by a Registered Nurse. To receive sedation, may not eat or drink, (not even water) for eight hours and have a driver to take you home.
  • A few of the surgical offices offer "general anesthesia." The medication Propofol is administered by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and causes you to be totally asleep. To receive general anesthesia, you must be fasting (nothing to eat or drink, not even water) for eight hours and have a driver to take you home.

CLICK HERE to view Guide to Surgical Abortion


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