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Vacuum aspiration

Plan to be at the clinic for 3 to 4 hours

Prepare to be at the clinic all day in case the surgeon decides that you need additional cervical preparation. 

Video: Vacuum Aspiration

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

You are shown into a treatment area and asked to lie on a treatment couch with support for your legs. A healthcare professional stays with you to provide support and comfort and monitors you throughout.

The doctor examines your uterus (womb) and a speculum is inserted into your vagina. The doctor injects a numbing medication into or near your cervix (neck of the womb) - this injection is missed out if treatment is undertaken with General Anaesthetic. The Doctor will open the cervix using thin rods called dilators (if needed). A tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. A hand-held suction device or suction machine gently empties your uterus. You will feel cramping, similar to period pains, during the procedure.

After your treatment you are supported as you walk to the recovery area, where you will be monitored by specially trained staff until they are satisfied with your recovery.  If you have had a general anaesthetic you will wake up in the recovery area.

Vacuum aspiration can be performed with these anaesthetic options:

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)

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

  • Psychological problems (variable)
  • Continuing pregnancy (1 in 1,500)
  • 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 abortion.