What happens during a surgical abortion?
Depending on which clinic you go to, you may be under local anesthesia (meaning only the area where the procedure will take place will be frozen), or under general anesthesia, where the person having the abortion will be asleep during the procedure. At the Morgentaler Clinic, they always use local anesthesia, while the Riverside Hospital usually uses general anesthesia. In a surgical abortion, you must lie on an examining table so the doctor can see into your vagina to find your cervix (the opening of a uterus). To remove the contents of the uterus, the doctor gradually opens the cervix with rods known as “dilators” and inserts a small tube. This tube is attached to a machine which gently suctions the inside of the uterus. The doctor then carefully checks the uterus with an instrument, to be sure no tissue remains. The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes. Afterwards, there is usually some bleeding, similar to a menstrual period.
After the procedure
If you’ve had a surgical abortion using local anesthesia (freezing), you’ll be taken to the recovery area, and a nurse will monitor your vital signs. Recovery tends to be very quick, and most people are ready to leave within about 30 minutes. If you’ve had a surgical abortion using general anesthesia, you’ll wake up in a recovery area, where you will be monitored for a while, until you’re ready to leave. You may be given a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection after your abortion- follow the directions of the doctor/nurse regarding taking these pills.
You will have some bleeding when you go home from the hospital. We are unable to tell you exactly what to expect as everybody is different. Instead, we recommend the following as guidelines:
- Self-limited heavier bleeding often occurs on day 3 and 6 after the abortion. The amount of bleeding that you have should never be greater than your heaviest normal period when you were not on a birth control pill.
- You may have light vaginal bleeding for up to 3 or 4 weeks. Occasionally this is associated with the passage of small blood clots.
- You should not have a fever.
- You should not have severe abdominal pain.
- You should not have any unusual vaginal odour or discharge.
- If you think something is wrong, you should contact your doctor immediately. If unable to contact your doctor, come into the Emergency Department.
- You may have some cramping (from the uterus contracting to its normal size), but it should not be severe.
- You may take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or other medications that you would normally take for menstrual cramps.
- You may experience tender breasts for a couple of days. In this case, wear a supportive bra for relief.
There are some activity restrictions that will apply after the abortion. For two weeks after the abortion, it’s recommend that you:
- Do NOT have a tub bath or swim; you may shower.
- Do NOT douche.
- Use sanitary pads (napkins) instead of tampons.
- Refrain from sexual intercourse.
When to notify your physician
Contact the Family Planning and Contraception clinic (613-761-4921) or your family doctor if you have any of the following:
- Fever greater than 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Foul-smelling discharge from your vagina.
- Flu-like symptoms within 7 days of your procedure.
- Very heavy bleeding where you are soaking 1 pad per hour for 2 consecutive hours. If your bleeding is not slowing down, go to the nearest emergency room.