Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) can usually be performed with just a local anaesthetic, but for a surgical abortion you will usually need a general anaesthetic. Your doctor will tell you which kind you are having.

Both local and general anaesthetics work by blocking the pain signals that travel along your nerves. Local anaesthetics only block these signals from a specific area. General anaesthetic blocks all your pain signals and it will also send you to sleep. You won’t be aware of anything that happens during the procedure.

Local anaesthetic is given as an injection. General anaesthetic may involve both an injection and a gas that will be given to you through a face mask. You will usually be asked to count backwards as you breathe from the mask, and you should gradually drift to sleep.

As with any kind of medication, there is a risk that you could have a bad reaction to an anaesthetic. The doctor will ask about your health and any medications you are taking in order to ensure it is safe for you to have a local or general anaesthetic. However, there is a still a chance of complications and the risk is slightly higher with a general anaesthetic.

Once the numbness from a local anaesthetic wears off, you shouldn’t feel any different. If you’ve been given a general anaesthetic for a surgical abortion, you should expect to feel groggy when you wake up and your memory may be a bit hazy. You will probably spend at least a couple of hours recovering in the hospital after a general anaesthetic. When you are ready to go home, you should arrange for someone to pick you up as you won’t be able to drive for 48 hours. You should take some time off work and rest at home while the anaesthetic wears off.

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