This involves a procedure performed under local anaesthetic (so you are awake). In our service this is available up to 11 weeks of pregnancy (pregnancy due date calculator)

This procedure is performed at Derriford Hospital (at the Lancaster suite) on a Friday afternoon. You are seen by a nurse and surgeon before the procedure. You will be given a vaginal tablet that softens the cervix, making it easier to open up the neck of the womb (cervix). You will be given pain relief before the procedure to keep you as comfortable as possible.

You will be asked in clinic how you would like us to manage the pregnancy tissue after the procedure.  We will explain your options which are self-disposal, shared burial, shared cremation, sensitive incineration, or being unsure (in this case you can have up to 4 weeks to consider, after which shared burial will occur if we do not hear from you).  Lastly some women do not feel able to engage with this conversation and will choose not to discuss this further and the hospital will arrange a shared burial in this situation.  We will ask you to sign a form outlining which option you wish to choose.

Positive aspects
  • No need for a general anaesthetic which can make you feel drowsy or sick.
  • No need for someone to stay with you for 24 hours afterwards
  • We scan you at the end of the procedure to check that we have removed all the tissue so less likely to have any left behind
  • You can have intrauterine contraception fitted at the same time (copper IUD or hormonal IUS, aka ‘coil’)
  • The discomfort occurs over a very short, predictable and defined period of time (compared to medical tablet procedure)
  • There is no need for you to see any tissue come out


Negative aspects
  • You need to be examined by a doctor and have local anaesthetic injections into the cervix which are uncomfortable
  • You will get crampy period pains during the procedure. These are similar to those during a medical abortion but happen in a shorter period of time so may feel more intense


Things to look out for after the procedure

Failed procedure (continuing pregnancy)
The risk of this is particularly low with vacuum aspiration as we scan you afterwards to check the procedure is complete. However the following can be symptoms of ongoing pregnancy and we suggest that you repeat a pregnancy test if symptoms are persisting more than a week after your procedure:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Tender breasts
  • Tummy growing
  • Less than 4 days bleeding after the treatment
  • No period between 4-6 weeks after your treatment

It is possible that a pregnancy test may remain positive for a while after the procedure as it can take time for the hormones to settle. If you are unsure it is best to contact your GP or our service for further advice.

It is normal for bleeding to last for up 2 weeks afterwards. We would expect you to have a period between 4 and 6 weeks after the procedure. This is usually separate from the bleeding that occurs immediately after the procedure.

We give antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection after the procedure.

However the following symptoms can suggest an infection and we recommend you contact our service, your GP, NHS 111 or nearest Emergency Department for review:

  • Severe bleeding (more than 4 pads in 2 hours)
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Offensive smelling vaginal discharge
  • Feeling hot or feverish