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Vacuum aspiration

Plan to be at the clinic for 3 to 4 hours

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

This method can be used up to 14 weeks’ gestation with local anaesthetic, conscious sedation and very rarely general anaesthetic.

VIDEO: Vacuum aspiration

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.

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.

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.

After 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.

If you have sedation or anaesthetic, please refer to the relevant pages below for recommendations:

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 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.