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Dilatation and evacuation

Plan to be at the clinic for the whole day


This method uses instruments and suction to remove the pregnancy while you are asleep. It is usually performed between 15 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. In addition to the procedure described below, you will need cervical preparation on the day of surgery, or the day before

VIDEO: Dilation & Evacuation

When you arrive, a healthcare professional will talk with you and answer your questions. You will be asked to change into a gown and to lie down on a trolley. Your anaesthetist will meet you, answer your questions and take you into theatre. A small cannula (a very fine plastic tube) is placed in a vein, normally in your hand. General anaesthetic medication is given through the cannula to make you sleep.

Once you are asleep, your legs are placed in supports and the doctor examines your uterus (womb). A speculum is inserted into your vagina. The opening of your cervix may be stretched with thin rods called dilators. The pregnancy is removed using narrow forceps passed through the neck of the womb.

A tube is then inserted through the cervix and a suction machine is used to gently complete the evacuation. You won't feel any pain during the procedure, which takes about 10-20 minutes from start to finish. You will wake in the recovery area and be observed for about 1-2 hours before going home.

Read more about your anaesthetic here.  DO NOT drive for 24 hours after a general anaesthetic.

If you are 23 weeks pregnant or more, it is necessary to administer an injection into the fetus to stop the heartbeat before the abortion takes place. This is called “feticide” and more detail can be found here.

Risks and complications

Significant, unavoidable or frequently occurring risks

These are usually easy to treat and rarely have any long-term health effects

  • Retained products of conception – where the pregnancy has been successfully ended but some of the pregnancy tissue is left behind in the womb (1 in 800)
  • Infection (1 in 2,500 as reported to BPAS but may be higher)
  • Unpredictable bleeding after the abortion (variable)
  • Pain during the procedure (variable)
  • Injury to the cervix (1 in 5,000)

These may require transfer to hospital or surgical procedures, and may have serious long-term health effects.

  • Psychological problems (variable)
  • Haemorrhage – very heavy bleeding (1 in 800)
  • Perforation of the uterus/womb (1 in 2,500)
  • Injury to bowel, bladder or serious injury to cervix (very rare)

Extra procedures that may be necessary

  • Repeat surgical abortion or uterine aspiration
  • Blood transfusion
  • Laparoscopy or laparotomy – operation to look inside the abdomen
  • Repair of damage to cervix, uterus, bladder, bowel or blood vessels
  • Hysterectomy – surgical removal of the womb (1 in 5,000)

Death is very rarely linked to abortion treatment – less than 1 in 100,000’ for all abortions.