Abortion Procedure
(16-22 weeks)

In-Clinic Abortion Procedure

An abortion procedure, also known as “surgical abortion” or “in-clinic abortion,” is a simple, safe procedure that involves a pelvic exam, dilation of the cervix, and removal of the pregnancy tissue through vacuum aspiration and additional instruments. After 16 weeks of pregnancy, cervical dilation may need to be completed over the course of 1-2 days prior to the removal of the pregnancy.

Over 16 weeks of pregnancy, cervical dilation can take multiple days.


Aspiration abortion works by using suction to take a pregnancy out of your uterus. Depending on how far you are into your pregnancy, there are a couple of methods used for in-clinic abortion procedures. Your doctor or nurse will know which type is right for you.

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) is an in-clinic abortion procedure. It uses suction and medical instruments to empty your uterus. This procedure is typically used if it has been 16 weeks or longer since your last period.

In-clinic abortions are highly effective. They work more than 99 out of every 100 times. Needing to get a repeat procedure because the abortion didn’t work is rare.

In some clinics, you can get an abortion procedure as soon as you have a positive pregnancy test. Other providers prefer to wait until 5-6 weeks after the first day of your last period.

The laws in your state will determine many aspects of how you can get an abortion. Some states have lots of restrictions, and others have less. We can help you learn what you need to know. It may be harder to find a healthcare provider able to do an abortion after the 12th week of pregnancy, so it’s best to try to have your abortion as soon as possible.

What kind of abortion you choose is your personal preference and situation. Some people choose in-clinic abortion because they want to have their procedure done at a health center. They want to have trained providers and staff there the whole time, and they may prefer sedation for comfort. (With the abortion pill, you have the abortion at home.)

In-clinic abortions are faster than the abortion pill. Most in-clinic abortions only take about 5-10 minutes, while a medication abortion may take up to 24 hours to complete. You may also opt for sedation with an in-clinic abortion.

Our trained staff can help you decide which kind of abortion is best for you.

If you are in your second trimester – meaning that it’s been more than 13 weeks since your last menstrual period, you will likely have a dilation and evacuation, or D&E, procedure.

D&E is usually used for abortions at 16 weeks or more after your last period. Before a D&E abortion, your provider will prepare your cervix. This means you may get medication that helps open your cervix. Your doctor might also put small dilator sticks called laminaria into the opening of your cervix either overnight or for a few hours before the procedure. The laminaria absorb fluid from your body and get bigger, slowly opening your cervix.

Before your abortion, you’ll get pain medicine to help with cramping. Our patients are always given local anesthesia and may also choose additional Oral or IV Sedation during the procedure. With sedation, you’re awake but relaxed. You’ll also get antibiotics to help prevent infections.

Once you’re in the procedure room, there will be a staff member there to assist the provider and support you during the abortion.

During a D&E abortion, the provider will:

  • examine your uterus
  • put a speculum in to see into your vagina
  • inject a numbing medication into or near your cervix
  • stretch the opening of your cervix with a series of dilating rods
  • insert a thin tube through your cervix into your uterus
  • use a combination of medical instruments and a suction device to take the pregnancy tissue out of your uterus gently

Once your abortion is over, you’ll rest in a recovery area with our medical staff until you feel better and are ready to leave. We offer special tea, snacks, and opportunities for support.

A D&E procedure usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes. Your clinic visit that day will take longer because it includes an ultrasound, lab work, exam, counseling/ consenting, preparing your cervix, and staying in the recovery room for up to about an hour afterward.

Are you thinking about contraception? In most of our clinics, you can get an implant, shot, or prescription for birth control while you’re there. Most Whole Woman’s Health clinics can put an IUD in your uterus soon after your abortion. Ask our staff if you are interested!

Suction aspiration abortion procedures are prevalent. Abortion at any gestation is 14 times safer than childbirth. In terms of risk, abortions are similar to other gynecological procedures that take place in doctor’s offices every day.

Like any medical procedure, there are some risks. A few things that affect your risk level include your medical and pregnancy history, the gestation of your pregnancy, and if you have sedation or general anesthesia.

Serious complications are infrequent but can happen. These include:

  • the abortion doesn’t work, and the pregnancy doesn’t end
  • some of the pregnancy tissue is left in your uterus
  • blood clots in your uterus
  • very heavy bleeding
  • infection
  • injury to your cervix, uterus, or other organs
  • allergic reaction to medication

These problems are sporadic, and they’re typically easy to treat. If the abortion doesn’t get all the pregnancy tissue out, you may need to have another procedure — this is not common.

In sporadic cases, some complications can be very serious or even life-threatening. Call our clinic right away if you have:

  • heavy bleeding from your vagina that soaks through more than 2 maxi pads in an hour, for 2 or more hours in a row
  • severe pain or discomfort in your belly that medication doesn’t help
  • a fever of 100.4℉ or higher

If you have bad-smelling discharge from your vagina, call to make an appointment. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always call. We have on-call staff support 24/7, 365 days a week.

In-clinic aspiration abortion procedures are common and effective, and millions of people have gotten these abortions safely. The common thing people feel after an abortion is relief. There are lots of myths about the effects of an abortion. But here are some facts:

  • Unless there is a severe rare complication left untreated, there is no risk to future pregnancies or overall health.
  • Abortions don’t increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Abortions do not affect fertility.
  • Having an abortion will not cause problems for future pregnancies like congenital disabilities, miscarriage, infant death, ectopic pregnancy, premature birth, or low birth weight.

Serious, long-term emotional problems after an abortion are rare. They are about as uncommon as they are after giving birth. If there are issues, they are more likely to happen to people who have to end a pregnancy because of health reasons or people who have a history of mental health problems.

Our providers can give you accurate information about in-clinic abortion side effects, risks, or any other concerns you might have.

Find Your Way To The Abortion Care You Deserve

Are you facing challenges accessing abortion care due to bans and restrictions in your state?

Whole Woman’s Health operates the Abortion Wayfinder Program to protect and expand access to abortion care for patients who are denied care because of bad laws in their home state. We help people find their way to the abortion healthcare they need. What’s more, we are working alongside abortion funds and allies to secure logistical and financial support for anyone needing to travel for abortion care.

Please call and ask for the Abortion Wayfinder Program to get connected. You can reach us in one of two ways:

Take The Next Step And Schedule An Appointment Today!

Our friendly team is ready to answer any questions and get you started. 

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Note: A trained medical professional is the only way to accurately determine the length of your pregnancy and what options are available.