Woman's Right to Know - Abortion Procedures - Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E)


Medical (Nonsurgical) Abortion
Dilatation and Curettage (D&C) with Vacuum Aspiration
Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E)
Abortion by Labor Induction (Medical Induction)
Dilatation and Extraction (D&X)

Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E)

This procedure is generally used after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure will generally be done in a doctor’s office or clinic, but may sometimes be done in a hospital. The doctor will often use ultrasound to determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.

To prepare for the procedure, the doctor will open (dilate) the cervix. Most women experience some pain, so the doctor may give you a painkiller — either locally by shots in the area of the cervix or by a general anesthetic — or a sedative (which will leave you conscious). The uterus will be scraped and the unborn child and placenta are removed. After 16 weeks, the unborn child and placenta are removed, piece-by-piece, using forceps or other instruments. This procedure will take less than an hour.

Possible side effects and risks

  • A hole in the uterus (uterine perforation) or other damage to the uterus.
  • Injury to the bowel or bladder.
  • A cut or torn cervix (cervical laceration).
  • Incomplete removal of the unborn child, placenta, or contents of the uterus requiring an additional operation.
  • Infection.
  • Complications from anesthesia, such as respiratory problems, nausea and vomiting, headaches, or drug reactions.
  • Inability to get pregnant due to infection or complication from an operation.
  • A possible hysterectomy as a result of complication or injury during the procedure.
  • Hemorrhage (heavy bleeding).
  • Emergency treatment for any of the above problems, including the possible need to treat with an operation, medicines, or a blood transfusion.
  • Rarely, death.


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Last updated December 5, 2012