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Vacuum Aspiration for Abortion

British Columbia Specific Information

Abortions are available in B.C. and, for B.C. residents who have current coverage, are paid for by the Medical Services Plan. Several clinics, doctors, and hospitals throughout the province offer these services. Counselling about pregnancy options, the procedure itself, birth control, and other topics are available at most of the clinics and through either of these toll-free information lines:

  • Pregnancy Options Line: 1-888-875-3163 throughout B.C. or 604-875-3163 from the Lower Mainland. This service provides information, resources and referral for all abortion services, including counselling, available to B.C. residents.
  • Sex Sense Line: 1-800-SEX-SENSE (1-800-739-7367) throughout B.C. or 604-731-7803 from the Lower Mainland. This service offers general sexual and reproductive health information, as well as referral to resources throughout B.C.

Women may self-refer to any of the abortion clinics in B.C. or may call the Pregnancy Options Line for referral to a doctor in their area. For more information, talk to your health care provider or call one of the numbers above to discuss your individual circumstances and options.

For more information, please visit Options for Sexual Health: Abortion Resources and BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre: Abortion & Contraception.

Surgery Overview

There are two methods of vacuum aspiration (also called suction aspiration):

  • Manual vacuum. This procedure can be used around 5 to 12 weeks after the last menstrual period (early first trimester). It involves the use of a specially designed syringe to apply suction.
  • Machine vacuum. This procedure is a common method used in the first 5 to 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy. It involves the use of a thin tube (cannula). The cannula is attached by tubing to a bottle and a pump, which provides a gentle vacuum. The cannula is passed into the uterus, and the pump is turned on. Then the tissue is gently removed from the uterus.

What To Expect

Vacuum aspiration is a minor surgical procedure. A normal recovery includes:

  • Irregular bleeding or spotting for the first 2 weeks. Use sanitary pads until you stop bleeding. Using pads makes it easier to monitor your bleeding.
  • Cramps similar to menstrual cramps. You may have them for several hours and maybe for a few days, as the uterus shrinks back to its non-pregnant size.

After the procedure:

  • If your doctor prescribed medicines, take them as directed.
  • Rest quietly for the day. You can do normal activities the next day, based on how you feel.
  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) can help relieve cramping pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex. If you don't want to get pregnant, use birth control when you start having sex again.

Why It Is Done

Vacuum aspiration is done in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Vacuum aspiration can be done for:

  • An induced therapeutic abortion.
  • A failed or incomplete medical abortion.
  • Death of the embryo or fetus (also called spontaneous abortion or miscarriage).

How Well It Works

First-trimester surgical abortions are safe and effective and have few complications.

In rare cases, an aspiration procedure doesn't successfully end a pregnancy. This is more likely to happen during the earliest weeks of a pregnancy.

Risks

The risk of problems from the procedure is rare. But some problems may include:

  • Failure to end the pregnancy.
  • Tissue remaining in the uterus (retained products of conception).
  • Injury to the cervix.
  • A hole in the wall of the uterus (uterine perforation).
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding.
  • Infection.

Credits

Current as of:
February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Rebecca H. Allen MD, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology