Surgical abortions that happen within the first 12-14 weeks since the last missed period (LMP), are typically vacuum aspirations, or suction abortions. 

Before the Procedure

Some women may need their cervix dilated before the abortion. Laminaria, sticks made of sterilized seaweed, are sometimes placed into the cervix to help absorb moisture and expand the cervix. This is usually done a day, or hours, before the abortion is performed.  The abortionist will perform an ultrasound and pelvic exam before the procedure.

The Procedure

The abortionist will swab the cervix with Betadine, an antiseptic, hold the cervix with a clamping tool and then inject anesthetic into the cervix to numb it. If further stretching of the cervix is needed, metal rods of different diameters are inserted into the cervix. Next, a plastic or metal tube called a cannula is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The cannula is attached to a vacuum that is used to suck the baby out of the uterus. A curette may also be used to scrape the sides of the uterus to ensure that no parts of the baby are left in the uterus. While it is recommended that abortionists use ultrasounds during the procedure, not all abortionists do so. After the baby is taken out of the uterus, the baby’s tissue will be examined to determine if all pieces of the baby’s body were removed.

A suction abortion is typically completed in 3-10 minutes.

After the Procedure

After a suction abortion is completed, the woman will be observed in a recovery room for about 30 minutes and will be given antibiotics. Women will experience bleeding and cramping after a suction abortion. Bleeding can last up to two weeks after the abortion. A follow up visit is typically scheduled 2 weeks after an abortion.


All surgical procedures come with possible risks and complications. Some potential complications include pelvic infection, excessive bleeding, cervical injury, incomplete abortion, perforation of the uterus, complications due to the anesthetic and ongoing pregnancy.

Contact your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Soak through 2 maxi pads per hour for 2 hours
  • Worsening abdominal pain
  • Fever lasting more than one day