An aspiration abortion is a viable method for terminating a pregnancy between 6 and 12 weeks of gestation, and some doctors will even conduct aspiration abortion right up to 15 weeks. Done before 6 weeks it may not be successful, and after 15 weeks the foetus is just too big to be affected by aspiration abortion, rendering the abortion attempt useless.
Aspiration abortion is also known as suction abortion or vacuum aspiration. They mean the same thing so don’t let the multiple names confuse you. Let’s take a more indepth look into the most popular early abortion method preferred by women and their doctors all over the world.
Types of Aspiration Abortion
The types of aspiration abortion methods are classified on the simple basis of the equipment used during the aspiration abortion procedure.
- With Manual Aspiration Abortion, the abortion is conducted with a syringe like device that suctions out the pregnancy with a hand-held pump.
- Machine Aspiration Abortion, on the other hand, uses a machine to suction out the contents of the pregnancy.
Aspiration Abortion Procedure
When you arrive for your abortion consultation, the doctor will firsi ensure that you are pregnant through a pregnancy test and a physical exam, perhaps even an ultrasound. If you are between 6 and 12 weeks pregnant, aspiration abortion will be one of the recommended abortion methods. You may be asked to go home and think about it for a couple of days to ensure that you really want the abortion. Some clinics will have a psychological consultation right after the initial consultation so you can talk to a counselor about your decision to have an abortion. You are under no obligation to do this though. If you already know that you want an abortion then you can just politely refuse counseling and set up an appointment for the aspiration abortion.
The aspiration abortion procedure described below is for both manual aspiration abortion and machine aspiration abortion. The only difference is the surgical tools used to actually carry out the aspiration abortion; the rest of it remains the same.
On the day of your aspiration abortion, you should eat at least 3 hours before the aspiration abortion procedure is scheduled. When you arrive at the clinic or hospital, you will have to change into a hospital gown. Your pubic hair needs to be shaved or waxed prior to your appointment. If you have not done so already, a nurse will shave you. You will then have to lie on an operating table for the aspiration abortion with your feet in stirrups. If you have requested general anesthesia – to be asleep during the procedure – it will be administered at this point. You can also request a sedative to calm your nerves or an anesthesia that will have you extremely relaxed to the point of near-sleep without putting you under.
You may be given misoprostol to dilate and soften the cervix. You may also be given some oxytocin to induce uterine contractions. Contractions of the uterus are needed to expel the contents of the pregnancy. Although the aspiration abortion does a pretty good job of getting all the bits out, there’s no harm in getting nature to help. An antiseptic will be swabbed on your vagina to reduce the chances of infection.
After all this prep, the aspiration abortion can begin. Here’s what happens, step by step.
- Your doctor will insert two fingers into your vagina to locate the position of the uterus.
- An instrument called a speculum will be inserted in the vagina to keep it clamped open so that the doctor can see the cervix clearly. An injection of local anesthetic will be administered in your cervix to numb the pain. If not a shot, some kind of medication will be given to reduce the discomfort of the aspiration abortion. Do not worry. None of this hurts as bad it sounds.
- Dilators may be used to stretch the opening of the cervix and make it easier for the doctor to complete the aspiration abortion. But sometimes, a pill that causes the cervix to dilate is given a few hours or even a whole day before the procedure. This point will differ depending on the method that your doctor is most comfortable with. But you can make your preferences known during the abortion consultation.
- Now that the cervix is dilated, a long, thin tube called a cannula is inserted through your vagina and cervix all the way to the uterus. This tube will either be attached to a suction machine if it is a machine aspiration abortion or a hand-held suction device which works like a syringe in case of a manual aspiration abortion. Either way, this is when the pregnancy will literally be vacuumed out. The lining of the uterine wall and the embryo implanted on it are suctioned out. You may feel some cramping at this time. If it is a machine aspiration abortion, you may be startled by the sound of the machine which can be very discomfiting.
- Although this sounds horrendous, it is actually a very gentle procedure, and if you are relaxed and have no health problems it will not hurt that much either apart from some period-like cramping.
- The doctor will check the contents of the terminated pregnancy to ensure that everything has been taken out. Your aspiration abortion is now complete.
Aspiration Abortion Aftercare
After the aspiration abortion, you will feel mostly a sense of relief that it is over. You may experience cramping akin to period pain. The severity differs from woman to woman. If the pain is too great for you to bear, your doctor will prescribe pain management medication. Other side effects you may experience include sweating, nausea, and some weakness.
Following the procedure, there will be some bleeding so you will have to wear a sanitary pad. Since you may be a little shaky after the aspiration abortion, the nurse will be the one to put your underwear on for you.
You will then be escorted from the operation theater to a bed where you will be asked to lie down for some time. The amount of time you will be asked to stay will depend on how well your aspiration abortion went, and also if you have any pre-existing health conditions that your doctor may be concerned about which could cause complications. However, for normal cases of aspiration abortion, the stay after can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. You will be sent home with your prescription medication, and a 24/7 number to call in case of complications.
Most women, especially if they are below 25 and in good health, find that they feel well enough to go about their day immediately after the aspiration abortion. Others find that they feel a little weakness. Each woman is different so you should really listen to your own body and go with the flow. The medical recommendation is to relax for the rest of the day and resume normal activity the day after the aspiration abortion.
You will be given a prescription for antibiotics as well as pain medication after the aspiration abortion. The pain medication can be taken at your discretion; if you feel comfortable or the pain is not that bad then you do not need to take it. The antibiotics however need to be taken without fail since there is always a risk of infection after any surgical procedure and the antibiotics are given as a preventive measure. Don’t take a potential infection lightly; it can be very dangerous and some infections can be life-threatening.
You will experience some spotting, clotting and/or bleeding for a few weeks after the aspiration abortion. But then again, not all women do. Bleeding may be off and on or continuous. This is one of the more unpredictable side effects of abortion.
Sexual activity will have to wait though. Depending on your individual case, you may have to put off sex from anywhere between one and two weeks. You will also not be able to use tampons for at least a week after. Sanitary pads and panty liners are OK as long as they are not perfumed or chemically treated as these have enough toxins to cause infection to the vagina, cervix or uterus which are a little vulnerable after aspiration abortion.
A follow-up visit will be required in about a week or so post your aspiration abortion so your doctor can ascertain that the pregnancy was successfully terminated and that you are healing well.
Advantages of Aspiration Abortion
Aspiration abortion methods are the most popular early abortion methods all over the world. They are considered to be quite safe and effective.
- One of the reasons that aspiration abortion is so safe is because it does not leave a scar on the uterine wall. This is always a good thing because a uterine scar can lead to all sorts of problems such as higher risk of infection and future pregnancy complications.
- Since there is no scraping and no sharp instruments introduced in the uterus, there is a lower risk of nicks and cuts to the cervix, uterus and nearby organs. This again translates to a lowered risk of infection after the aspiration abortion.
- Manual aspiration abortion in particular can be quite advantageous in third world countries or developing nations where power outage can happen at any time or electricity is undependable. Since the equipment for performing the manual aspiration abortion is not dependent on electricity, the doctor does not have to worry about being stuck or interrupted in the middle of the aspiration abortion procedure.
- In most cases of aspiration abortion, general anesthesia is not used unless the patient specifically asks for it. And honestly, anesthesia is not even needed for aspiration abortion since there is minimal pain (usually) and the procedure is non-invasive. Anesthesia during any surgical procedure can bring on a host of problems that can lead to very serious complications during and after the procedure. No anesthesia, no problem.
- Aspiration abortion is done very quickly. Of course, making the appointment and having a consultation and undergoing tests take time, but the actual aspiration abortion procedure takes 15 minutes tops. This means that you do not have to take a day off work or interrupt your regular routine to get an aspiration abortion. Now although it is recommended that you take time off work to relax after an aspiration abortion, this may not always be possible because of prior commitments, or perhaps you simply do not want to make a big fuss about it. Either way, aspiration abortion takes so little time that it can literally be fit into a slightly extended lunch break. You may be asked to stay at the clinic for about an hour after the aspiration abortion for observation. But there is no hospital stay required.
- Since the aspiration abortion procedure takes very little of the doctor’s time and resources, this translates into an economical abortion method that’s easy on the pocket. Of course, the cost of aspiration abortion will vary depending on where you are getting it done – a private, plush clinic will charge you way more than a government hospital. But you are sure to find a clinic or hospital that performs this low-budget procedure at a very reasonable cost.
Risks of Aspiration Abortion
There are few risks of aspiration abortion, just like there are risks for all other abortion methods and any kind of medical procedure.
- If an aspiration abortion is done too early in the pregnancy i.e. before 6 weeks, then there is a 3% chance that the pregnancy will not be successfully terminated. This means that you will have to return to the clinic for a few hours and undergo aspiration abortion for a second time or resort to another abortion method. While this is not a risk per se since it can be easily resolved, it can be very frustrating.
- As mentioned earlier, there is always the possibility of an infection after aspiration abortion. Take your antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor and call the 24/7 hotline number if you develop a high fever or are vomiting a lot – both signs of infection.
- If you opt for general anesthesia, there is always a chance of an adverse reaction.
- Although extremely rare, damage to the cervix or uterus is not unheard of with aspiration abortion.
- Heavy bleeding occurs in less than 1% of all aspiration abortion cases. This may call for a blood transfusion.
- In 1 of every 600 aspiration abortion cases, some pregnancy tissue gets left in the uterus.
- Although it does not occur if aspiration abortion is done properly, there are rare cases when uterine scarring is caused when the cannula is rubbed too vigorously against the uterine wall during the suctioning process. This scarring can increase your risk for pregnancy complications in the future.