Woman's Right to Know - Abortion Procedures - Dilatation and Extraction (D&X)


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 Extraction (D&X)

This type of abortion is one of the procedures that can be done after 16 weeks gestation. It may be done in the clinic or in the hospital for more advanced pregnancies.

The doctor will dilate (open) the cervix. The doctor will grasp the unborn child’s foot with an instrument and deliver the child except for the head. While the head is kept in the birth canal, scissors are used to make a hole in the back of the head, a tube is inserted, and suction is applied. The contents of the unborn child’s skull are suctioned out, the bones of the head collapse, and the child is delivered dead.

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.


NOTE: Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and the Physician’s Ad Hoc Coalition for Truth stated in 1996 that this type of procedure “… is never medically necessary to protect a mother’s health or her future fertility. On the contrary, this procedure can pose a significant threat to both.”
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Last updated December 5, 2012