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Dilation and Evacuation

What is it?
This is a procedure done later in pregnancy. A Dilation and Evacuation opens the cervix and removes the contents of the uterus using suction and instruments. It usually requires a visit to the clinic on the day prior to the surgery to begin to dilate (widen) the cervical opening.

The surgery is done with a local anesthetic although other drugs may also be given to help a woman relax. During the procedure, the cervix is dilated to allow the surgical instruments to pass into the uterus. Then, surgical instruments and mechanical suction are used to remove tissue from the uterus. A general anesthetic can be given up to 23 weeks and six days.

Women having dilation and evacuation abortions should have someone accompany them to the clinic or hospital and help them get home. Normal activities can be resumed in the next day or two. However, it may take up to a week for a full recovery. A follow-up exam is done a week or two later to make sure the procedure is complete.


  • this is the only procedure available for doing abortions well into the second trimester


  • riskier than the other procedures described; it is easier to cause damage to the uterus with later sized pregnancy
  • abdominal cramping and pain are common; most women recover quickly but cramps may continue for up to a week following the procedure
  • menstrual-like bleeding possible for up to two weeks after procedure
  • full recovery may take up to a week
  • it is often a two or three day procedure with small dilators being inserted into the cervix the day before the procedure to begin opening the uterus; the dilators can cause cramping, bleeding and nausea in some women


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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital