Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Physicians
myWDconnect Patient Portal
Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Health Library
Health Insurance Marketplace
Interpreter and Communication Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Records
Accountable Care Organization
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials
Food and Nutrition Services
Back to Health Library   Print This Page Print    Email to a Friend Email

Abortion procedure
Abortion procedure


Definition:

A surgical abortion is a procedure that ends a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the mother's womb (uterus).

There are different types of surgical abortion.

Sometimes the woman needs the procedure for a health reason. This is called a therapeutic abortion.

Other times, she chooses (elects) to end the pregnancy. This is called an elective abortion.

See also:



Alternative Names:

Suction curettage; Surgical abortion; Elective abortion - surgical; Therapeutic abortion - surgical



Description:

A surgical abortion uses a vacuum to remove the fetus and related material from a woman's uterus (womb). The procedure is usually done after 6 weeks of the woman's last menstrual period

You may receive medicine (sedative) to help you relax and feel sleepy. The doctor may numb the cervix so you feel little pain during the procedure.

If the surgical abortion is done after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the doctor must first open (dilate) the cervical canal. Small sticks called laminaria are placed into the cervix to help it open. Sometimes, this is done a day or two before the actual abortion procedure. Next, the doctor inserts a hollow tube into the womb before using the vacuum to remove the pregnancy-related tissues from the womb.

Medicines may be given to help the uterine muscles contract. This reduces bleeding.



Why the Procedure Is Performed:

There are several reasons a surgical abortion might be considered:

  • The developing baby has a birth defect or genetic problem
  • The pregnancy is harmful to the woman's health (therapeutic abortion)
  • The pregnancy resulted after a traumatic event such as rape or incest
  • The woman may not wish to be pregnant (elective abortion)

The decision to end a pregnancy is very personal. Most health care providers recommend careful counseling before making such a decision.

Abortion is a controversial issue. A woman who chooses to end a pregnancy may feel she cannot share her decision with others. Therefore, it is important for her to identify those who may help her through what may be a difficult time.

Women who are trying to make this difficult decision should find a safe place in which they can obtain counseling regarding all options for pregnancy resolution.

If a woman chooses to have an abortion, she should find a safe place to have the procedure performed and obtain the proper support and follow-up care afterwards.



Risks:

Risks of surgical abortion include:

  • Damage to the womb or cervix
  • Emotional or psychological distress
  • Excessive bleeding
  • infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes

The risks of surgical abortion increase as a woman gets further along in her pregnancy. That's why it's important to make a decision about abortion as early as possible, when the procedure is safest.

The risks for any anesthesia are:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing

The risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Call your health care provider if you have had a surgical abortion and you have:

  • Excessive vaginal bleeding (may lead to shock)
  • Continued pain or pregnancy symptoms (possible sign of ectopic pregnancy )
  • Signs of infection, including persistent fever, vaginal drainage with a foul odor, vaginal drainage that looks like pus, or abdominal pain or tenderness


After the Procedure:

Complications rarely occur. Most women who have a surgical abortion in an appropriate medical center recover without any physical complications.

Some women may need psychological and emotional support at the time of their procedure. It's important to seek counseling before making this very difficult decision.



Outlook (Prognosis):

Physical recovery usually occurs within a few days, depending on the stage of the pregnancy. A small amount of vaginal bleeding and mild uterine cramping should be expected for a few days.

A hot bath or use of a heating pad or hot water bottle on the abdomen may help relieve discomfort. Strenuous activity should be avoided for a few days following an abortion. Tampons may be used after 3 days. Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 2 to 3 weeks. A normal menstrual period should occur 4 to 6 weeks after the operation.

It's important to begin using birth control immediately after the abortion procedure. It is possible to get pregnant again even before having a normal menstrual period. Improved methods of contraception can help prevent many unplanned pregnancies. However, unplanned pregnancies occur even when couples use birth control. See also: Emergency contraception



References:

Mischell DR. Family planning: contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 14.

Simpson JL, Jauniaux ERM. Pregnancy loss. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 24.

Annas GJ, Elias S. Legal and ethical issues in obstetric practice. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 51.




Review Date: 2/19/2009
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Find What You Need

Events
Careers
Foundation
About Us
Contact
Directions
News
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Library

Support Services

Support Groups
Care-Van
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:

 

Address

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100