An early surgical abortion is an option up to the first 13 to 15 weeks of pregnancy (depends on the provider). Surgical abortion takes place in a hospital or community clinic.
The following information is a guide only. The procedure can vary between clinics.
To have an early surgical abortion you'll have a minor surgical procedure to end the pregnancy.
- Before the abortion, you'll be given medication (misoprostol) to soften your cervix. It can cause some cramping or bleeding, but it makes the abortion procedure quicker and more comfortable.
- If you change your mind this medicine could still cause you to miscarry, so be sure it's what you want to do before you take the medicine.
- Early surgical abortion is also called 'first trimester surgical abortion', 'vacuum aspiration' or 'suction termination'.
What to expect during an early surgical abortion
- The abortion itself usually takes 5 to 10 minutes.
- Firstly the operating doctor will examine you internally by putting a finger in your vagina.
- You'll be given either local anaesthetic or you may have conscious sedation. This means you'll be awake but it doesn't hurt so much. Sometimes a general anaesthetic is used, which knocks you out.
- To give you a local anaesthetic, the doctor will put in a speculum (a small device to open your vagina). They will numb your cervix (the opening to your uterus/'womb') with the local anaesthetic.
- Some people notice a pinching feeling which only lasts until the anaesthetic starts to work.
The doctor then gently dilates (stretches) the cervix. You may get cramps like period pain. You can breath slowly and evenly to help with that.
- The doctor inserts a small plastic tube (cannula) up your vagina and through your cervical opening into your uterus. The pregnancy tissue is taken away by suction using the tube. The suction part usually lasts one to three minutes.
- Most people feel pain like period cramps. Some people find it more uncomfortable. Again, breathing slowly and evenly can help.
- You'll then you rest up for an hour or so at the clinic. Usually, you go home on the same day.
If you're having a surgical abortion and want long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), discuss this with your abortion provider. This can be done at the same time as your procedure.
- You can drive as soon as you feel comfortable. However, if you do have a general anaesthetic you can't drive until 24 hours after your abortion.
- If you want to take the pregnancy remains (the foetal tissue or ’products of conception’) home, tell your doctor or nurse at your first appointment or before you start the procedure.
- You might choose to bury the pregnancy remains, returning the tissue and wairua to the whenua.