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Surgical Abortion

Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act

Prior to your procedure visit, the state of Pennsylvania requires you to comply with the Abortion Control Act. Under this law, each patient must receive state-mandated information from a physician at least 24 hours before the procedure starts. There are three ways to get this information: at a consultation visit in the office, speaking with one of our physicians by phone, or by asking your own doctor or clinic to give you the information.

When you call to make an appointment, our telephone counselors will give you more information about this process.

Explanation of the Procedure

At the procedure visit you will talk with a counselor about your decision, aftercare, and birth control. A nurse or assistant will escort you to a pre-operation room to take your vital signs before bringing you to a private procedure room.

Prior to surgery you will meet the doctor and have an opportunity to ask him any last minute questions.

If you have chosen to be awake for the procedure, you have the option of receiving an additional medication to help reduce anxiety. If you choose to take this medication, a nurse will give you an injection in the upper arm approximately 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the abortion. You will then be asked to undress, from the waist down if you are to be awake for your procedure, or into a paper gown if you are to be asleep.

A female surgical assistant will accompany you into the procedure room. If you have chosen IV sedation, a nurse anesthetist will place a needle in your arm, which will deliver a pain-blocker and sedatives intravenously. You will not feel anything or remember anything.

The doctor begins by inserting a speculum into your vagina, and then opens it to hold the vaginal walls apart. Your cervix is anesthetized with a local anesthetic. If you are awake, you may feel a pinching or burning sensation.The doctor will then gently dilate your cervix, the opening to your uterus, by inserting and removing narrow, tapered rods, called dilators, beginning with one that is very small and gradually increasing the size. How far your cervix will need to be dilated depends on how many weeks pregnant you are. At 9 weeks, it would be about 9 millimeters (a third of an inch). If you are having a second trimester abortion, the doctor may use laminaria (or “lams”) to aid dilation. Laminaria are small rods that, when inserted into the cervix, slowly absorb water from the body and expand like a rigid sponge. They are usually inserted 1 - 2 hours prior to the procedure, and cause some women to experience mild to moderate cramping.

DSC 0072When the dilation is complete, the doctor attaches a small tube, called a cannula, to the suction machine and inserts the cannula into the opening of the cervix. The suction gently empties the contents of the uterus. If you are awake, some moderate to intense menstrual-type cramps usually accompany the procedure.

The surgery usually lasts about 5 - 8 minutes. If you are having IV sedation, you will experience a "twilight sleep" for about 10 minutes. Afterwards, you will rest in the recovery room, where a nurse will monitor your vital signs for 20 - 45 minutes. If your blood type is negative, she will also give you a Rhogam injection.

You can expect to spend 2 - 5 hours at AWC on the procedure day if you are awake, or 3 - 6 hours if you are under sedation, possibly longer if you choose to do everything in one day. Since few physicians provide this service, we schedule as many patients as we can.

- What to Expect After an Abortion

- Post-Abortion Instructions

If you are not sure whether or not you want to have an abortion, or which method will be best for you, please utilize the workbooks below. You may also call AWC and one of our friendly, knowledgable telephone counselors will assist you! If you know the first day of your last period, our pregnancy calculator can help you determine the length of your pregnancy.

- Pregnancy Options Workbook

- Which Abortion Method Is Right For Me? Workbook

- Pregnancy Calculator