Surgical Abortion

Up to 12 weeks of pregnancy

Up until the 8th week of pregnancy the medical words used to talk about the pregnancy in a woman’s body are ‘embryo and placenta’.  After the 8th week the medical words used for a pregnancy are ‘fetus and placenta’.

Most surgical abortions before 12 weeks use an abortion procedure called ‘suction aspiration’.

  • ‘Aspiration’ means ‘to draw out’ and ‘suction’ refers to a ‘vacuum’.
  • In abortion by suction aspiration the cervix is gradually widened using surgical rods of increasing size.
  • Then a narrow vacuum tube is inserted in the uterus.
  • The embryo/fetus and placenta are withdrawn from the uterus using suction from the vacuum tube.
  • The lining of the uterus is treated with a ‘curette’ instrument to ensure all of the pregnancy has been removed.

It takes about 16 minutes for the abortion procedure to be complete.

After 12 weeks of pregnancy

Abortion procedures after 12 weeks of pregnancy are similar in some ways but the cervix is prepared differently.

Sometimes medicines that block the hormones which cause a pregnancy to continue are taken by mouth or inserted into the vagina.

These may take 2 hours to work.

Then suction and other surgical instruments are used to withdraw the fetus and placenta.

Other methods involve widening the cervix to insert a medical device that swells enough to allow the abortion procedure to be done 1 or 2 days later.

Later in Pregnancy

Further on in a pregnancy more medications, surgical instruments and different procedures are used to complete the abortion.

Information about the procedure should be discussed with a medical provider who is able to support the woman and provide counselling around the information she will receive as part of her consent to treatment.

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