Are you thinking of having an abortion as a possible option for an unplanned pregnancy? If so, you’ll want to gather the complete, accurate information you need to make an informed decision.
The two primary methods of abortion are chemical (or medical) abortion, which ends your pregnancy by taking one or more pills, and surgical abortion.
This article introduces you to two common forms of surgical abortion — vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation (D&E) — as well as the many health risks and long-term physical and mental side effects that affect many women who have this type of abortion.
What Is Surgical Abortion?
Surgical abortion is a procedure that ends a woman’s pregnancy by surgically removing the baby from her uterus.
There are two primary forms of surgical abortion. There are other methods for third trimester and late term abortions.
- Vacuum aspiration abortion usually takes place within the first trimester of pregnancy, which is the first 12 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period.
- Dilation and evacuation abortion (also called D&E) is performed on more advanced pregnancies during the second trimester, or 13 to 24 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period.
Vacuum Aspiration Abortion
Vacuum aspiration involves removing the baby from your uterus by sucking him or her out through a large tube inserted into your uterus through the vagina.
- Local anesthetic is given to control maternal pain
- A speculum is inserted into your vagina
- The vagina and cervix are sometimes cleaned with antiseptic
- Numbing medication is injected into your cervix
- The cervix is dilated using large tubes or medication
- A large tube is inserted through the cervix and into your vagina
- The tube is connected to a vacuum machine
- The vacuum sucks your baby out of the uterus, resulting in his or her death
- The uterus will contract, causing strong cramps, as the baby is removed
- Most women experience nausea, uncontrollable shaking, and fainting during the procedure
Dilation and Evacuation Abortion (D&E)
Because it occurs during the more advanced second trimester of pregnancy, a D&E abortion is much more complicated and involves an elevated risk of death or injury to the mother.
D&E abortion involves a combination of three techniques for removing the baby:
- Vacuum aspiration
- Dilation and curettage (D&C)
- Surgical instruments such as forceps
The procedure typically takes place in a hospital or other surgical center and involves general anesthesia. One day before the surgery, you will have rods of seaweed inserted into your cervix to cause dilation. The seaweed rods are left in place overnight.
- A speculum is inserted into your vagina
- Sometimes the vagina and cervix are cleaned with antiseptic
- Your cervix is grasped with a surgical instrument to hold the uterus in place
- Your cervical canal is dilated
- A large hollow tube is inserted through your cervix and attached to a vacuum
- The fluid surrounding the baby is removed through suction
- Forceps are used to remove large pieces of your baby’s body by grasping and pulling them free.
- A sharp tool called a curette is used to scrape the lining of your uterus to remove any remaining fetal parts or placental tissue
- Suction is repeated to make sure your uterus is completely empty
A follow-up ultrasound is often used to make sure all fetal and placental tissue has been removed.
What Happens After Surgical Abortion?
Once you return home, you will experience heavy, irregular bleeding for at least two weeks, although abnormal bleeding continues indefinitely for many women. You will also continue to have strong cramping until your uterus returns to its prepregnancy size.
Surgical abortion has an extremely high complication rate. In the past decade, hundreds of women have died from abortion-related ailments. Many women will have at least one of the following side effects of abortion surgery:
- Bacterial infection. Some abortion doctors prescribe antibiotics, but most do not.
- Injury to uterine or cervical lining
- Perforated uterus requiring follow-up surgery
- Blood clots
- Cervical blockage and abdominal swelling when fetal tissue becomes lodged in the uterus
Complications often lead to the following symptoms:
- Severe headaches
- Strong muscle aches
- Severe, persistent abdominal pain and swelling
- Hot flashes
- High fever
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat
- Pain and swelling of the genital area
- Vaginal discharge
You may also experience post-abortion syndrome, which causes strong emotional reactions including sadness, grief, and guilt, and often results in clinical depression. This is caused by hormonal changes in your body in response to prematurely ending your pregnancy through abortion, as opposed to carrying the pregnancy to term.
Considering Surgical Abortion: What to Do Next
If you’re considering any type of abortion, it’s time to set a free appointment with ACPC. Unlike an abortion clinic, we are a nonprofit organization and have no financial interest in the outcome of your decision. This gives us the freedom and objectivity to provide more accurate information and more helpful services.
You’ll need three services in particular.
- Confirm your pregnancy. ACPC offers free pregnancy testing and results are completely confidential.
- Determine the viability of your pregnancy. Up to one-third of pregnancies end in miscarriage. ACPC will provide a free ultrasound to confirm whether your baby is alive and developing properly.
- Get free options counseling. Our caring staff provides scientifically accurate information on all pregnancy options — abortion, adoption, and parenting — to help you make an informed decision and feel confident about your choice.
If you think you may be pregnant, or if you already know you’re pregnant, contact ACPC for your free appointment. We understand that this is a challenging time in your life, and that’s why we’re here to help you through it.