Surgical Abortion

Surgical abortion vs. non surgical abortion methods

While Surgical Abortion (D&C) is the most commonly offered abortion procedure, and it is very safe, it not the best early abortion method.

Surgical abortion with D&C is overly invasive for ending early pregnancy. The World Health Organization recommends Manual Vacuum Aspiration and the abortion pill as the safest early abortion methods. These noninvasive, nonsurgical methods do not cause damage to the uterine wall, and do not involve major health risks. The Manual Aspiration Procedure utilizes a handheld device that provides gentle suction and naturally releases the early pregnancy tissue. The Abortion Pill blocks the pregnancy hormones. The second pill causes the uterus to contract and results in a natural early miscarriage, similar to a heavy period.

What’s the difference? Surgical Abortion or Non-surgical Abortion?

The Manual Aspiration Abortion procedure and the Abortion Pill are the safest abortion methods because they do not involve scraping, electric suction and there is no need to be put to sleep.  After surgical abortion, you must spend time in a recovery room, and it can take days to feel back to normal. The Manual Aspiration Procedure and the Abortion Pill can be completed in a private medical examination room, or the privacy of one’s home.  Surgical abortion is the most common way to end pregnancies in an abortion clinic or in a hospital.  The chart below compares these two options.

Manual Aspiration Procedure
Surgical Abortion
A soft flexible tube is inserted into the natural opening of the cervix. A thin cannula about the size of a pencil is inserted. Gentle pressure is applied with a handheld device. The pregnancy lining is simply brought down into the syringe.
Metal dilators stretch the opening of the cervix. A cannula is inserted. A tube connects the cannula to an electric vacuum machine and suctioning is applied. In a D&C procedure, the uterus is scraped with a sharp instrument, or “curette.”
Procedure Time
A few minutes
10-15 minutes, including the administration of anesthesia
Recovery Time
Post-Procedure pain/discomfort
No discomfort or mild period-like cramps Return to your normal activities immediately Nothing in the vagina for 48 hours
Discomfort can last for hours or days. Return to work the next day Nothing in the vagina for 2-6 weeks.
Minor complications that can be treated in the doctor’s office
Extremely rare health risks.

Surgical Abortion: how to make it safer

Surgical abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available. The safest time to complete a surgical abortion is in the first trimester. Serious complications are extremely rare, but when they do occur, they are caused by scraping, the electric suction, and general anesthesia. If you need to get a surgical abortion, you can ask the doctor not to scrape the uterus. Scraping is unnecessary under 12 weeks of pregnancy. A surgical abortion without scraping is often called “suction curettage.” The safest sedation is local anesthesia or “twilight” anesthesia.

After your Abortion: Surgical vs. Non-surgical

The most obvious difference between a surgical abortion and a non-surgical Aspiration procedure is the recovery time. When you have a Manual Aspiration Abortion, you feel back to normal within minutes. The Manual Aspiration Abortion procedure and the Abortion Pill cause a natural release of the pregnancy tissue. The uterus is not interrupted by the process, so it doesn’t need to “recover” or heal, any more than it would from having a heavy menstrual period. After a Manual Aspiration procedure, patients leave the office, and resume their normal activities. You can resume sexual activity in 48 hours.

After a Surgical abortion, your body needs to recover. The scraping causes an interruption of the normal uterine wall. You are taken from an operating room into a recovery room for 1-2 hours. When you leave the office, it may take hours or days to be completely back to normal. You are usually instructed to avoid sexual activities for 4-6 weeks until the uterus is completely healed.