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Surgical abortion 

MSI Reproductive Choices UK 20230605_0551

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Surgical abortion is a safe and simple procedure used to end a pregnancy. 

The pregnancy is removed vaginally by an experienced doctor either by using suction (vacuum aspiration) or specialised instruments (dilation and evacuation). 

We offer surgical abortions up to 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. The type of surgical abortion procedure we offer you will depend on how many weeks you have been pregnant and your medical history. 

What is surgical abortion? 

A surgical abortion involves the pregnancy being removed through your vagina by an experienced doctor, either by using suction (vacuum aspiration) or specialised instruments (dilation and evacuation). 

How long does a surgical abortion take? 

We offer surgical abortion as a day treatment in our clinics. The procedure for a surgical abortion can differ depending on your gestation (how many weeks pregnant you are), and so the amount of time you will spend in the clinic will be different too. 

We can offer the procedure under local anaesthetic or a light anaesthetic. We’ll discuss your choice with you at your consultation, and talk to you about pain relief we can give to make things more comfortable. 

Nurse using a scan machine

Get in touch 

We are here if you’d like to talk through your options with someone. Call us to talk to an advisor.  

Preparing your cervix (neck of the womb) for the procedure

The cervix will need to be prepared to make the procedure as safe as possible. If you are below 19 weeks of pregnancy, this is done using tablets. Depending on your gestation and medical history, you will be asked to take some tablets either a few days before and/or on the morning of your procedure. If you are over 19 weeks of pregnancy, this is done by placing small rods in the cervix on the day before the procedure.  

Surgical abortion: what to expect on the day 

When you arrive at one of our clinics, you will have a consultation (if you have not already had a phone consultation) and medical assessment with one of our specialist nurses. 
Surgical abortion procedures differ at different gestations (how many weeks pregnant you are). They’ll talk you through the procedure and answer any questions you have. 

Following cervical preparation, the pregnancy is removed from the womb by vacuum aspiration (this involves a suction method) through the cervix and vagina. This is usually done under light anaesthetic. If you are under 12 weeks pregnant, it may be possible to have a local anaesthetic. The local anaesthetic option is not available in all locations, but during your appointment we can discuss what is possible. 

This is a very quick and simple 5-10 minute procedure, but please plan on being with us for half a day. 

After cervical preparation, slender specialised instruments are used to remove the pregnancy. This procedure is called dilatation and evacuation (D&E). This procedure is done under a light anaesthetic. 

The procedure takes 10-15 minutes, but please plan to be with us for half a day. 

At this gestation range, the treatment is performed in two separate stages over 2 days. On day 1, your cervix will be prepared by inserting narrow expanders that gradually expand overnight. This is a simple and quick procedure that takes 5-10 minutes and you will be awake, but we can offer you some numbing cream and an inhaled pain killer if required. If you are over 22 weeks gestation, you may be offered an additional procedure called feticide.  

On day 2, you will return to the centre for the surgical procedure under a light anaesthetic. The pregnancy is removed through the cervix and vagina using slender specialised instruments and suction. This procedure is called dilatation and evacuation (D&E). 

The procedure takes about 10-20 minutes, but please plan to be with us for half a day. 

What to expect during your abortion treatment

This page includes a timeline of each stage of accessing abortion care with MSI UK, to help you know what to expect. 

Abortion client in recovery at a clinic

Surgical abortion recovery 

After your treatment, you’ll spend some time in our recovery lounge having some light refreshments until you’re ready to go home. 

Most people will experience some bleeding and cramping afterwards. Bleeding can last for 1-2 weeks and will be similar to a heavy period. Cramping pains are also normal following the procedure, as the womb returns to its normal size. We will advise you about appropriate pain relief to take, and when to seek further advice if necessary. 
You can also call our aftercare line 24 hours a day and talk to one of our friendly, experienced nurses: 0345 122 1441

Your surgical abortion treatment and aftercare booklet 

This booklet will give you information about what to expect during treatment and provide advice for your recovery after a surgical abortion. It is important that you read this information. 

Learn more about abortion 

Visit the pages below to read surgical abortion stories from our clients, to learn about UK abortion law and to find a calculator to help you find your gestation (how many weeks pregnant you are). 

MSI Reproductive Choices UK 20230612_0680

Surgical abortion stories 

Abortion stories from our clients to feel reassured that you are not alone.    

MSI – United Kingdom – 20230605

Gestation calculator 

Find a useful tool to help you calculate your gestation (how many weeks pregnant you are).   

MSI Reproductive Choices – United Kingdom – 20230605

Abortion and your rights 

Learn more about abortion law in the UK and your rights.