Surgical Abortion


Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion is one of the most commonly performed and safest surgical procedures in Australia, with up to 80,000 women undergoing the procedure every year. Most commonly performed in the first trimester, up to 12 weeks’ gestation, surgical abortion has a low complication rate when carried out during this time. While surgical abortion can be performed in the second trimester (up to 20 weeks) this does involve a more complex surgical procedure.

Surgical abortion in the first trimester is most often carried out under ‘General Anaesthesia’, although the option of a local anesthetic is available. Once the anesthetic has taken effect, the doctor inserts a small tube into the uterus and, applying gentle suction, removes the contents and lining of the uterus. This is why a surgical abortion is often called a ‘suction curette or vacuum curettage or suction vacuum'.

The procedure itself takes around 10 minutes; however, from the point of arrival at the clinic to prepare for the surgery and recovery from the anesthetic, having a surgical abortion can take 4 – 5 hours. After the anesthetic has worn off and you have received your aftercare advice, you will need to be driven to your home or hotel.

The risks of surgical abortion

Surgical abortion is one of the safest operations carried out in Australia; however, all surgery carries some risks. Although complications can occur in an estimated 3% of cases, major complications are rare. Below is a list of the risks associated with surgical abortion:

  1. An incomplete abortion is the most common complication (up to 2%) and occurs when a small piece of the pregnancy or lining remains in the uterus. This may result in problematic bleeding or cramping and a repeat procedure may be required.
  2. Ongoing pregnancy is uncommon (1 in 500) but is more likely in procedures performed under 6 weeks.
  3. Infection is uncommon (less than 1%) You will usually be given or prescribed antibiotics with your procedure to reduce the risk.
  4. Damage to the cervix is uncommon and rarely has longstanding effects.
  5. Perforation of the uterus, where the surgical instruments make a hole in the wall, is potentially the most serious complication but fortunately is rare with an experienced surgeon.
  6. Hemorrhage following a surgical abortion in the first trimester is rare.

Women who experience heavy bleeding, fever or severe pain or discomfort following a surgical abortion must consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Why choose surgical abortion?

Overall, surgical abortion is a very safe and highly successful option for termination of pregnancy in the first trimester. The advantages of choosing a surgical abortion are:

  • It can be performed later in the pregnancy than a medical abortion;
  • The procedure itself takes only a matter of minutes;
  • It usually involves only one visit to the clinic;
  • There’s usually less bleeding and cramping than with a medical abortion;
  • Medical staff are present throughout the procedure;
  • It can be performed under twilight sedation, which reduces awareness and pain;
  • It has a very low complication rate and a high success rate;
  • You can continue to breastfeed, whereas you will need to cease breastfeeding during a medical abortion.

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