Surgical abortion is a safe and straightforward day-surgery procedure that is most commonly performed in the first trimester (up to 12–14 weeks’ gestation). Second trimester termination of pregnancy may be performed up to 20 weeks in most states, and late second trimester abortion up to 24 weeks in Victoria, but this requires a more specialised procedure.
Surgical abortion in the first trimester is a low-risk procedure with a high success rate of greater than 98%. A doctor uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy from the uterus. The procedure takes between 5–15 minutes and is usually performed under intravenous (twilight) sedation. Local anaesthetic can be used if preferred.
When you book you will also be given the option of having a long-acting reversible method of contraception fitted post-procedure. Combining procedures can be convenient and cost-effective.
For more information about what’s involved in a surgical abortion, or to make an appointment, please contact us.
- If you are having IV sedation it is very important that you do not eat anything (including lollies or gum) for 6 hours prior to your appointment
- You may drink small amounts of water only, but no other fluid, up to 2 hours before your appointment
- You should also take any regular medications (except blood thinners) with a small amount of water
- If you are having a local anaesthetic you may have a light breakfast.
When you book your appointment, you will be provided with an information pack by email, which has important information about your procedure. Please ensure that you read it carefully.
It is important that you inform us when making your appointment if you are a diabetic.
If you are having IV sedation you must not drive a motor vehicle for 24 hours following your appointment and you must have someone to accompany you home. You cannot travel home alone by taxi.
In addition to the above preparations we suggest that you have a bath or shower before you leave home.
If your arrival is delayed for any reason, please call in advance to let us know.
- Photo identification. This must be presented. However, if you are under 18-years-old and don’t have photo identification you must bring your Birth Certificate instead
- Medicare card. If you don’t have one you will pay a higher fee. Call Medicare on 13 20 11 beforehand to see if you are eligible for a card
- Private health insurance card as you may be able to make a claim
- Concession, Healthcare or Pension card if you have one
- Any notes, reports or ultrasound scans given to you by your doctor. In WA you also need a doctor’s letter/referral stating that you have discussed your decision to have an abortion
- Any medication you are currently taking, including inhalers
- Extra underwear
- Cash, EFTPOS or credit card for payment on the day. Visa, MasterCard or AMEX accepted.
Optional items to bring:
- Comfortable two-piece clothing such as a short-sleeved top and a skirt, or loose fitting pants
- Books, magazines or a digital device to read while you are waiting
Please don’t bring:
- Valuables, including jewellery
- Children or babies.
Following any surgical abortion procedure, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. You must arrange this before the procedure commences, as we cannot proceed without the name and number of your support person designated to pick you up. As we have a duty of care, we cannot allow you to travel home alone by taxi.
Once you have left the clinic, you may experience some period pain-like symptoms, which are best treated with over-the-counter painkillers. The most common side-effects you may experience after the procedure are:
To ease the discomfort try uterine massage, followed by abdominal hot pack and/or mild over-the-counter pain relief. Do not use aspirin, as this can increase bleeding.
Vaginal bleeding can start straight away or up to 2 weeks after the procedure. Bleeding differs for each person; however it is not normally heavy but may be accompanied by some abdominal cramping or blood clotting. In some women, bleeding and cramping may increase 4 to 5 days after the procedure and may last for up to 4 days. This is quite normal. Some women may have no bleeding following their procedure. This can be quite normal too.
If you suffered from nausea before your procedure, you will probably find that it stops within 24 hours after the procedure. However, if 2 weeks after the procedure you still continue to feel sick, please call our aftercare nurses.
Breast tenderness can last for at least 2 weeks after your procedure. For some women, particularly those later than 12 weeks gestation, it is also quite usual for your breasts to become fuller and leak a little fluid for a few days. Do not squeeze your breasts as this will only make things more uncomfortable for you. Instead, try wearing a support bra. Mild painkillers may also assist.
Prices are based on the minimum cost for each procedure for patients holding a valid Medicare card. Further discounts apply for Healthcare Card holders in many cases. Visit the prices page to understand the factors that influence cost, or contact us to get an exact price based on your personal circumstances.
Depending on the stage of gestation, there are slightly different procedures involved in a surgical abortion.
Up to 14 weeks
Dilation and curettage (D&C) is typically the surgical abortion procedure used to terminate a pregnancy. It is also referred to as ‘suction curettage’ or ‘vacuum aspiration.’
After 14 weeks
Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is the surgical abortion procedure typically used to terminate a pregnancy.
An approximate timeframe in the centre is around 4 hours, as it is a day surgery procedure, which includes check in, waiting time, consultation time with the nurse/doctor, procedure and recovery time.
Surgical abortions where the gestation is above 12 weeks will require a longer stay in the centre as medication may be required to help open the cervix before your procedure. From 16 weeks onwards you may require two consecutive appointments to complete the procedure. The duration of a second trimester termination will depend on gestation, previous obstetric history and the type of procedure advised by the doctor on the day.
Generally, early abortion (less than 12 weeks) is one of the safest and most common procedures carried out in hospitals and clinics throughout the world. There is no medical evidence to suggest that a surgical abortion with no complications has any impact on future fertility or any other aspect of general health.
Your consulting doctor will discuss these risks with you on the day and gain your consent to proceed. For more information about the risks involved, you may wish to read an article comparing the risks and benefits of medical and surgical abortions.
You should contact our centre if you have any of these warning signs:
- Excessive bleeding, that is, soaking through a super pad every half hour for 2 hours
- Bleeding much heavier than your normal period, lasting for more than 2 days
- Constant pain or cramps continuing for more than 2 days
- Abdominal pain or tenderness that changes in nature, especially towards one side of your abdomen
- Persistent blood clotting
- Smelly vaginal discharge
- Raised temperature or flu-like feeling
- Sickness or breast soreness that has continued for more than 1 week
- Absence of a normal period 4 to 6 weeks following the procedure (except in second trimester abortion).
You can read more about what risks are involved by reading the article Understanding your options: surgical abortion vs medical abortion.
You can have a shower as soon as you wish, but we advise you not to have baths or go swimming for 1 week after the procedure.
Avoid any strenuous activity for at least one week, including sports or heavy physical work to allow your body time to recover.
Sources and references
- Very rare is considered to be <1 in 10,000 whilst rare is 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000. The most common complication of retained products occurs in 1%.