Vacuum abortions occur 6-13 weeks into pregnancy, counted from the first day of a woman's last period. At this point in the pregnancy, the mother had missed her period and may start having signs of morning sickness. At this stage of development, the unborn child is alive and growing rapidly. Facial features are visible. The tiny eyes are equipped with a retina and lens. The major muscle system is developed, and the unborn child practices moving. The child has its own blood type, which may be different from the mother's. The child's heart is beating and this can be seen on a doctor's ultrasound device.
What is a vacuum aspiration abortion?
In the first trimester, usually 6 to 13 weeks, vacuum aspiration is the surgical procedure used for the majority of elective abortions.
How does vacuum aspiration abortion work?
An anesthetic injection is administered to numb the cervix which makes the procedure less painful for the woman. Depending on how long the woman has been pregnant, dilating tools may be needed to stretch open the cervix wide enough to perform the abortion. A flexible tube is pushed through the cervix into the uterus. A special vacuum device called an aspirating machine is turned on the suction out the uterine contents. The fetus is killed as it ripped out of the wall of the uterus and torn to pieces by the force of the machine. The doctor will then examine the peices to be sure that the abortion is complete.
You may have heard of a D&C abortion. This stands for dilation and curettage, and it is rarely performed anymore. A D&C abortion uses a sharp instrument to remove the fetus and tissue from inside the uterus. This technique has an increased risk of bleeding and injury to the uterus compared with vacuum aspiration.
Side-effects and health risks of vacuum aspiration abortion
All abortions involve a degree of post-operative bleeding, which is to be expected. One possible complication is continuing pregnancy, which means the woman is still pregnant even after the procedure. This could be because the doctor missed the fetus or it could be because the woman was carrying twins and only one was aborted. Incomplete abortion may occur if fetal tissue is left inside the uterus. Infection is a fairly common problem after an abortion. Although it is easily treated with antibiotics, the infection can result in impaired fertility. A less common but more serious complication is perforation of the uterine wall; this could require surgical repair in a hospital, depending on the severity. In rare cases, abortion patients may experience a major complication, such as a life-threatening pelvic infection, hemorrhage requiring a blood transfusion, or unintended major surgery. Several studies show a link between early abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.
Because abortion is often painful and emotionally distressing, many women elect to have general anesthesia for the procedure. Potential anesthetic complications include severe hemorrhage, convulsion, cardiac arrest, and death.
- Abortion as Birth Control: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.org)
- About Abortion: Epigee Women's Health (Epigee.org)