Early Abortion Machine Vacuum Aspiration Procedure

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The early abortion machine vacuum aspiration procedure is one of three available options to end an early pregnancy (the abortion pill and manual aspiration are the other methods). This early abortion method can be used 5 to 12 weeks after your last menstrual period.

This procedure is quick (5 to 15 minutes) and can be safely completed in a regular medical office or clinic.

Due to a Supreme Court ruling on June 24, 2022, laws are now in effect that ban or greatly restrict abortion in certain states. President Joe Biden has since signed an Executive Order to help protect some abortion access in the country.

A woman having a checkup with her doctor
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Machine Vacuum Aspiration Is Also Known As

  • Early abortion
  • Aspiration abortion
  • Machine vacuum aspiration
  • Vacuum aspiration

Before the Procedure

  • An osmotic (cervical) dilator may be inserted into the cervix to slowly dilate its opening either a day before or hours before a machine vacuum aspiration abortion.
  • Misoprostol may be given to help soften the cervix.
  • Pain or sedation medication might be provided orally or intravenously. Vasopressin (or a comparable medication) could also be mixed with the local anesthetic to lessen or slow bleeding at the injection site on the cervix.

During the Procedure

  • Your healthcare provider will insert a speculum.
  • The cervix will be cleaned with antiseptic and numbed with a local anesthetic.
  • The uterus is held in place with an instrument that grasps the cervix. The cervix is then dilated to reduce the risk of injury to it.
  • A hollow tube, called a cannula, is inserted into the cervix. It is attached by tubing to a bottle and a pump.
  • When the pump is turned on, it creates a gentle vacuum that suctions the tissue out of the uterus.

During this time, you may feel mild to moderate cramping because your uterus contracts when the tissue is removed. There is some discomfort, yet the cramping should lessen once the cannula is taken out. You also might feel faint, sweaty, or nauseous.

After the Aspiration Abortion

  • After a machine vacuum aspiration abortion, the removed tissue may be examined to make sure that all of it has been taken out and that the abortion is complete.
  • Based on how you are feeling, you can usually resume normal activities the next day. You will probably need to wait about a week for sexual activity or to use tampons.

Possible Side Effects

  • After the procedure, you will most likely be bleeding, though there tends to be less bleeding after the aspiration procedure than with the use of the abortion pill. (The bleeding is lighter than a typical period). You could also have some spotting for the first two weeks.
  • You may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • You could also experience cramps that may occur a few hours to a few days after the aspiration procedure, as your uterus is shrinking back to its normal size. Your healthcare provider may suggest acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve this cramping.


The aspiration procedure is approximately 98-99% effective. Yet, in rare cases, an aspiration procedure may not end a pregnancy. This is more likely to occur in manual aspirations performed before 6 weeks, when about 3% fail and require a repeat procedure.

If all of the tissue has not been successfully removed during a machine vacuum aspiration, a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure might be needed.

Final Thoughts

  • Machine vacuum aspiration abortion is safe for future pregnancy, as there is minimal possibility of developing scar tissue.
  • This procedure is typically safe and effective and has a low risk for complications.
  • Complications that could occur include injury to the uterus or cervix or infection.
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Allison JL, Sherwood RS, Schust DJ. Management of first trimester pregnancy loss can be safely moved into the office. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2011;4(1):5-14.

  2. Ibiyemi KF, Ijaiya MA, Adesina KT. Randomised Trial of Oral Misoprostol Versus Manual Vacuum Aspiration for the Treatment of Incomplete Abortion at a Nigerian Tertiary Hospital. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2019;19(1):e38-e43. doi:10.18295/squmj.2019.19.01.008

  3. Carlsson I, Breding K, Larsson PG. Complications related to induced abortion: a combined retrospective and longitudinal follow-up study. BMC Womens Health. 2018;18(1):158. doi:10.1186/s12905-018-0645-6

Additional Reading
  • Keder LM. "Best practices in surgical abortion."Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2003 189:418–422.

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.