To alleviate some discomfort and shorten the process of a surgical abortion, physicians sometimes use Laminaria to slowly dilate the cervix before performing an abortion. Laminaria is a species of kelp native to Japan that has a number of common therapeutic uses. When dried and applied properly, laminaria has proven to be a very helpful tool for the dilation of the cervix.
How does the laminaria procedure work?
This procedure is conducted the day prior to a surgical abortion. Your physician will begin by cleaning the cervix with gauze and administering a local anesthetic. Next, a sterile strip of laminaria is gently inserted into the cervix, and a sponge is placed in the vagina to hold the laminaria stick in place. In cases where a pregnancy is more advanced, the physician may insert two laminaria sticks instead of one.
Once the laminaria stick is in place you will be given an opportunity to rest, during which time you may experience some light cramping and spotting. If the cramping becomes particularly painful, it can be treated with over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Tylenol. In many cases, women feel nothing at all after the laminaria is inserted.
Over the course of the next 10 to 24 hours, the laminaria stick will gradually absorb moisture from the tissues around the cervix, causing it to swell. In this regard, the laminaria stick acts like a tampon, but it is much smaller. As the laminaria stick swells, it will safely and gradually dilate (open) the cervix in preparation for the abortion procedure.
When is laminaria used?
The Laminaria procedure is typically used in second trimester abortions (after 15 weeks gestation) that require cervical dilation prior to evacuation. Using laminaria eliminates the need to use additional surgical tools to complete the abortion process safely and effectively.
Once the laminaria stick is inserted and you’ve had an opportunity to rest, you’ll be able to spend the night at home and resume normal activities such as bathing and exercise. You should not have intercourse, douche or use a tampon, though. The next day, your physician will remove the laminaria and complete the abortion process.
Is the laminaria procedure safe?
In general, the risks associated with laminaria are very minimal. There is a risk of infection, however, if the laminaria is in place for more than 24 hours. As such, we will remove the laminaria within 24 hours, regardless of whether or not you decide to proceed with the abortion. In the event that you are unable to keep your appointment with us, your general practitioner can remove the laminaria as well. You should not attempt to remove the laminaria on your own. There is also a risk of perforation associated with laminaria placement, but this is very rare.
If you change your mind about having an abortion, it is possible to remove the laminaria and allow the pregnancy to continue. However, because the cervix has already been dilated, this can increase your risk of infection and miscarriage. With this in mind, if you have doubts about having an abortion, you should typically not undergo the laminaria procedure.
If you have any additional questions about the laminaria procedure and its role in surgical abortions, please feel free to give us a call at 585-271-3850.