Vacuum aspiration

This form of surgical abortion is carried out on women who are between 7 to 15 weeks pregnant. It is less complex than dilation and evacuation and recovery is quicker.

This procedure is carried out under a local or general anaesthetic and involves removing the foetus using gentle suction. The procedure takes around 10 minutes to complete and you can usually go home the same day.

How does this work?

The vacuum aspiration procedure

To start with, you may have had a small tablet (known as a pessary) inserted into your vagina beforehand which helps to dilate (open) the cervix.

Once this has dilated a small suction tube, connected to a pump, will be placed inside your womb. The vacuum action of this suction tube will remove the foetus and any surrounding tissue.

This procedure takes around 10 to 15 minutes in total.

Recovery takes around 1 to 2 hours.

You may experience some bleeding a couple of weeks following this procedure. This will be similar to a menstrual period and clears up of its accord, usually after 14 days. Wear sanitary towels during this time until it has stopped.

There is less vaginal bleeding after a vacuum aspiration than with other forms of treatment.

After vacuum aspiration

If you have had a general anaesthetic for this procedure then you will need to rest afterwards until the effects of this have worn off. It is a good idea to have arranged beforehand for someone to drive you home. This applies if you had a local anaesthetic instead as it can leave you feeling tired and slightly dizzy.

If you have arranged for someone to drive you home then also ask them if they can stay with you for the first 24 hours after your abortion. This can be your partner, member of your family or a friend.

You will be given painkillers to deal with any discomfort after the procedure.

You will be given a date for a follow up appointment: this is a check up done two weeks after your abortion and it is important that you attend this. The doctor at your clinic can perform this or you can ask your GP.

Recovery after vacuum aspiration

Continue to take any painkillers you have been given. These will be either Ibuprofen or Paracetamol which are available at your local pharmacy. Follow the instructions given and ask your pharmacist if you are unsure about this.

If you’ve had a general anaesthetic then avoid driving, operating machinery or performing any tasks which require concentration for the first 48 hours after your abortion. Do not sign any legal documents during this time.

Continue to use sanitary towels rather than tampons during the 14 days after your abortion. Avoid using them for at least a month.

Do not resume sex until the bleeding has completely stopped. When you do resume normal relations then ensure that you use contraception right away.

Your GP or doctor at the clinic will advise you to use contraception to reduce the risk of a sexually transmitted disease and to prevent a pregnancy. Women are highly fertile following an abortion which means there is a very high risk of them becoming pregnant. If you do not want this to happen then ask about a suitable form of contraception.

Abortion is a safe procedure but if you notice any of the following symptoms then contact your GP.

  • Fever
  • Dark or strong smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Heavy bleeding with blood clots
  • Lower abdominal swelling or severe pain

These symptoms are signs of an infection which require medical attention.

What about complications?

These and the risks of abortion are discussed in a separate section.

Side effects include the effects of a general anaesthetic, abdominal pain and cramps and bleeding. However these ease the first couple of weeks or so after your abortion.

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