Undilated Cervix  
female organs cervix

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Therapeutic abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. It is done before the fetus is able to survive on its own. A surgical therapeutic abortion is done using one of three methods:

  • Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA)
  • Dilation and suction curettage ( D&C )
  • Dilation and evacuation (D&E)

Reasons for Procedure  

A therapeutic abortion may be done to:

  • Preserve the mother’s physical or mental health
  • End a pregnancy that tests have shown would result in a child with severe abnormalities

Possible Complications  

These procedures are very safe. But, no procedure is free of risk. Problems resulting from abortion can include:

  • An incomplete procedure
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to the cervix or other organs
  • Reaction to anesthesia

The earlier in a pregnancy the abortion is done, the better the chances of a procedure with no complications.

If you think you might be pregnant, see your doctor. The earlier you find out, the more time you have to make an informed choice about the pregnancy. Early symptoms of pregnancy include:

  • A missed period
  • Tender, swollen breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to odors

What to Expect  

Prior to Procedure  

Your doctor may:

  • Examine you—to determine the stage of your pregnancy by checking the size of the uterus (womb)
  • Do blood and urine tests—to confirm the pregnancy
  • Use ultrasound—to give an accurate assessment of the stage of pregnancy
  • Give you medicine—to help dilate the cervix

Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:

  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Blood thinners


Local anesthesia with sedation may be used. The local anesthesia will numb the cervix. Sedation will help you relax. In some cases, regional or general anesthesia may be used.

Description of Procedure  

You may be given an antibiotic before the procedure.


The doctor may inject a numbing agent in or near the cervix. Special tools will be used to stretch the cervix opening. A tube will be inserted into the uterus. The tube will then remove the contents.


The steps for an MVA will be followed. The doctor will then use a narrow metal loop to remove the tissue lining the uterine walls.


This procedure is similar to a D&C, except that it is done during the second trimester. It will also require wider dilation of the cervix. The fetus and other products of conception are removed from the uterus with medical instruments and suction. This usually requires regional or general anesthesia.

How Long Will It Take?  

About 5-20 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?