First trimester surgical abortion practices: a survey of National Abortion Federation members

Contraception. 2001 Dec;64(6):345-52. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(01)00279-7.


The objective of this study was to survey first trimester surgical abortion practices of North American providers. A survey was mailed to the 310 active member clinics of the National Abortion Federation, the professional organization of abortion providers in North America. The 236 respondents (76%) comprising the study group provided approximately 30% and 33% of all first trimester abortions in the US and Canada, respectively. Of the 529 practitioners who perform most abortions at the clinics, 68% are obstetrician-gynecologists, and 18% are family physicians; 51% are at least 50 years old. The majority of respondents (156 of 236, 66%) confirm gestational age with ultrasonography. Of the 202 clinics that favor one method of anesthesia, 58% use local cervical block with or without oral pre-medication, 32% combine local anesthesia with intravenous sedation, and 10% use general anesthesia. Most clinics open the cervix with tapered dilators (207 of 233, 89%), evacuate the uterus by using curved rigid plastic cannulas (157 of 229, 69%) and an electric vacuum source (191 of 233, 82%), and explore the uterus with a metal curette following aspiration (133 of 232, 57%). A large majority of respondents examine the uterine aspirate on-site (91%), prescribe antibiotics (91%), and offer oral contraceptives (95%) when requested. Although variations exist, surgical techniques and postoperative practices are quite uniform among clinics. Local anesthesia is presently the most frequent method of pain control. Ultrasonographic dating before abortion is common practice. The "graying" of skilled practitioners raises concerns about the future availability of abortion.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Canada
  • Counseling
  • Dilatation and Curettage / methods
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Tests
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • United States