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Surgical abortion with vacuum aspiration is available up to 14 weeks' gestation

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BPAS Vacuum aspiration
Vacuum aspiration at BPAS

Vacuum aspiration uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy and takes about 5-10 minutes from start to finish. Afterwards, you will need to rest in the recovery area for about 30-60 minutes. 

Plan to be at the clinic for 3 to 4 hours. You will need cervical preparation - click here for more information.

A healthcare professional will show you into the treatment area. You will be asked to lie on a couch with supports for your legs. You will meet your doctor at this stage and can ask any last-minute questions. Any sedation will be given to you before the procedure begins. A nurse will stay with you throughout for support and comfort.

Midwife with documentation

After examining you and placing a speculum into your vagina, the doctor may need to open the cervix using thin rods called dilators. A tube will then be inserted through the cervix into the uterus. Either a handheld suction device or a suction machine gently empties your uterus. If you are awake for your procedure, you will feel cramping, like period pains.

Following your treatment, you will be taken to the recovery area where you will be monitored until staff consider that you are ready for discharge. You will have a light snack before going home. You will be given an anti-sickness drug.

Sedation and anaesthesia during your procedure

The doctor will inject numbing medicine into or near your cervix (neck of the womb). In addition, you may be given pain medication by mouth. This does not make the procedure pain-free, but you should experience less pain. A nurse will stay with you throughout the procedure to provide you with comfort and support.

Before a local anaesthetic, we encourage you to have a light meal and you can drink as normal. Avoid alcohol.

After your treatment you can go home once the recovery staff have decided you are ready for discharge. You may drive and do not need an escort to take you home unless you are under 18 years of age.

Side effects and complications of local anaesthetic 

Local anaesthetics are generally very safe and serious problems are rare. You shouldn’t experience any significant side effects. Some people experience temporary side effects such as:

  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • low blood pressure
  • shaking
  • ringing in the ears
  • metallic taste in the mouth

Significant unavoidable or frequently occurring risks

  • Some discomfort when the injection is given
  • In very rare cases, you could have an allergic reaction to the local anaesthetic or develop serious problems, such as fits (seizures), trouble breathing, abnormal heartbeat, or a cardiac depression or arrest (when the heart stops pumping blood around the body)

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What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation helps you to relax and reduces anxiety and pain during treatment. Conscious sedation is highly suited to most short gynaecological procedures.

Medications for conscious sedation are given through a vein in the arm or back of the hand. You will be awake during your treatment and able to talk to your nurse and doctor, but you will feel drowsy and may continue to do so for several hours afterwards. You may have no or limited memory of the procedure after receiving conscious sedation.

Find out more here

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What is general anaesthetic?

Under a general anaesthetic, you are unconscious and you will feel nothing. This is is like being asleep. General anaesthetic is given by an anaesthetist. At BPAS, your procedure will take between 10 and 15 minutes, after which you will be woken up. 

You will need to fast for several hours before having a general anaesthetic.  It is important that you follow the fasting instructions - otherwise you may not be treated on the day of your appointment.

Find out more here

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 600)
  • Infection (1 in 6,500 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 11,000)
  • Psychological problems (variable)
  • Continuing pregnancy (1 in 1,500)

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

  • Perforation of the uterus/womb (1 in 6,500)
  • Haemorrhage - very heavy bleeding (1 in 8,000)
  • 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 35,000)

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