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Suction Curettage (D&C)
This procedure, also called vacuum aspiration abortion, is mostly used in the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). This procedure is usually done in a doctor's office or clinic.
The doctor usually opens the cervix (the opening to the uterus) first. The cervix is opened by putting in and taking out smooth metal rods that will carefully open the cervix the exact amount needed.
Most women feel some pain during the procedure. The pain is like menstrual cramps, but can be stronger. Your doctor should tell you about ways to help with the pain like relaxation techniques, and pain medicine given by mouth or given by shot. Sometimes general sedation (going to sleep) is offered. It is important that you ask about the options available for pain. Talk with your doctor about any risks with each type of pain management.
After opening the cervix, a plastic tube that is about the size of a pencil around is then put into the uterus through the opened cervix. The tube is attached to a suction device that sucks out the pregnancy tissue.
The procedure will usually take about 5 to 10 minutes. You may have uterine cramping afterwards. You will remain at the doctor’s office for about thirty minutes after the procedure to make sure you are doing well, before being allowed to leave.
Risks and Complications Associated with this type of Abortion
Below are some of the possible risks of this type of abortion procedure. Talk with your doctor about what risks apply to you.
Risks may include: infection, heavy bleeding, a hole or tear in the wall of the uterus, and injury to the cervix. Another rare, but possible risk, is having some pregnancy tissue stay inside after the procedure. This can lead to heavy bleeding and/or infection. For every 100 women having first trimester surgical abortions, 97 have no complications; 2.5 have minor complications that can be handled at the doctor’s office; and less than 0.5 have more serious complications. Serious complications may require an additional surgery or being in the hospital. i
Having more than one abortion could increase the possibility of early delivery, having a low birth weight baby, or a condition in which the cervix opens up too early, increasing the risk of a miscarriage in a future pregnancy.
It is rare, but some women may have feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, trouble sleeping or doing daily activities after their abortion. These symptoms can also occur after the birth of a baby or after a miscarriage. Please call your doctor or local community mental health, health department, or human services office for help if you have any of these symptoms that are strong or lasting.
As with any medical procedure, death is a risk. However death related to abortion occurs in less than one of every 100,000 abortions. ii
Risks and Complications associated with Pregnancy and Delivery
Most pregnancies are normal. Most women who have good care during pregnancy and delivery will give birth to a baby without problems. However, some women may have health conditions or pregnancy problems that may require special care or hospitalization during pregnancy. Just as there are risks with abortion, there are risks with continuing a pregnancy to full term.
Some of the pregnancy problems that may lead to hospitalization include a pregnancy growing outside uterus (tubal pregnancy), miscarriage, excessive vomiting during pregnancy, urinary tract infection, heavy bleeding or infection, diabetes, preeclampsia and eclampsia (causing swelling, high blood pressure and possible seizures), blood clots, premature labor, death of the fetus, newborn or maternal death.
Maternal death occurs approximately 17 times out of every 100,000 live births in the U.S. iii
Many services may be available to you if you choose to continue your pregnancy. You can contact your local health department, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or your local county Department of Human Services to learn about help in your community.
If you would like information about adoption, please contact your county Department of Human Services or a private adoption agency.
i M. Paul, E.S. Lichtenberg, L. Borgatta, D.A. Grimes, P.G. Stubblefield, M.D.Creinin; Management of unintended and abnormal pregnancy: comprehensive Abortion Care. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p 136.
ii M. Paul, E.S. Lichtenberg, L. Borgatta, D.A. Grimes, P.G. Stubblefield, M.D. Creinin; Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p. 225.
iii CDC Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System, December 2016 https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pmss.html