If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
What are the differences between surgical and medical abortions?
How it works
· A doctor will gently open your cervix (the opening to the uterus or womb) with dilators that gradually get bigger.
· A cannula (straw-like tube) is inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
· Suction (like a vacuum) is used to remove the pregnancy from the uterus.
· The procedure usually takes 3-10 minutes.
· You take two medications. The pregnancy will end and the uterus will push out the tissue (like a miscarriage).
· The first pill stops the pregnancy. The second pills are taken 24-48 hours (1-2 days) later, at a convenient time for you.
• Very low risk of continuing pregnancy (less than 1 in 100).
• High success rate (about 99%).
• Only needs one clinic visit.
• Procedure is finished within minutes.
• Sedation can be used if you wish.
• Can be used early or later in pregnancy.
• High success rate (95-98%).
• The pregnancy is expelled (pushed out of the body) within 24 hours of using misoprostol in 90% of women.
• It is more private, since it is done at home.
• You can choose to have someone with you for support.
• Can be used very early in pregnancy.
• Similar to a natural miscarriage or a heavy menstrual period.
• Medical instruments enter the uterus.
• May feel less private.
• You can’t have someone with you for support, as partners and loved ones are not allowed in the clinic.
• Uterine cramping may be very painful.
• About 2-5% of women will need a uterine aspiration procedure (D&C) after medical abortion.
• Bleeding after medical abortion may last longer than after uterine aspiration.
• You may see blood clots and pregnancy tissue.
• Needs 2 clinic visits.
• You may not know if the abortion was successful until the follow-up appointment 1-2 weeks later.
• Risk of continued pregnancy is 1 in 20.
What is a surgical abortion?
A surgical abortion uses suction to remove pregnancy tissue during a very short procedure, as described in the table above.
Am I eligible for a surgical abortion?
A surgical abortion may be performed if your pregnancy is up to 15 weeks and 6 days from the first day of your last menstrual period.
What happens during a surgical abortion?
If your pregnancy is between 6 to 12 weeks:
- The doctor will gently open your cervix (the opening to the uterus or womb) with dilators that gradually get bigger.
- Once the cervix is open, the doctor will insert a hollow straw-like tube (called a cannula) which is attached to an aspirator. This machine uses gentle suction (like a vacuum) to clean out the contents of the uterus, including the fetus and placenta.
- The doctor will then use a spoon-shaped instrument (called a curette) to check the walls of the uterus for any tissue that may remain. The procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
If your pregnancy is between 13 weeks to 15 weeks and 6 days:
- You will be given a medication called misoprostol before the procedure. Misoprostol softens the cervix and makes dilation (opening the cervix) easier.
- Misoprostol takes 1½-2 hours to work. After this, you will have the procedure described above, which will last about 5-15 minutes.
What are the possible risks?
- Infection may occur in 0.1-2% of cases. You will be given antibiotics to help prevent this.
- There is a very low risk (less than 1 in 1000) of:
- injury to your uterus
- remaining tissue requiring a second aspiration
- excessive bleeding
Looking for more health information?
Nova Scotia Women’s Choice Clinic
Hours: Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Callers may also leave a message at any time and a nurse will return the call during these hours.)
Nova Scotia Health Authority, Library Services