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What Is Menstrual Extraction?

By Sarah R. LaVergne
Updated Jan 20, 2024
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Menstrual extraction is a technique that was developed to terminate very early pregnancies or to remove menstrual blood. By performing menstrual extraction a woman can typically gain control of her menstrual cycle and maintain control of reproduction. The procedure emerged in 1971, when a reproductive self-help group founded by feminist women decided to modify abortion equipment to produce a gentler form of performing early term abortions. The manual procedure is considered relatively safe.

Even before a pregnancy test shows a positive result, this home medical procedure can be done to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. The practice can also be appealing to women who would rather avoid the painful side effects of a menstrual cycle. In this instance, the extraction is done on the first day of the woman's period. By performing this technique, a woman can sometimes get her monthly cycle to become more regular. It can also help women to learn more about their bodies.

Menstrual extraction is not generally performed by a physician. Historically, it has been carried out by groups of women, either in a home or at a workshop or meeting. In the US, some practitioners do not advertise the fact that they do the extraction procedures, and most do not treat such procedures as medical. Rather, the procedure is employed as a self-care practice as part of a larger community-based reproductive support initiative. Over the years, menstrual extraction has become a crucial part of reproductive care communities where traditional abortions are illegal, both in the US and abroad.

Whether the procedure is being done for menstrual cycle regulation or abortion, the technique is typically the same. A cannula, approximately the size of 0.2 inches (four mm), is inserted into the uterus. By inserting the small cannula the cervix does not have to be dilated. A syringe is attached to the cannula to limit the amount of tissue extracted.

Scraping, cutting and anesthetics are generally not needed. The procedure can usually be completed over a period between 30 minutes three hours. The woman is in complete control of the procedure and can stop it at any time. Not only blood extracted but a fully-developed egg can be suctioned from the body. This is sometimes seen as a form of birth control because without the egg pregnancy is unlikely. Blood and tissue are also removed during extraction.

If the procedure is performed for an early term abortion, the procedure can usually be done up to eight or nine weeks after the last menstrual period. If a woman waits longer, though, the tissue usually will not fit through the cannula because of its size. Side effects of the procedure are different for every woman but can include nausea, dizziness, and severe cramping.

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Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Aug 13, 2014

I admit, I'm kind of skeeved about the group thing, myself, but I surely would have welcomed this in high school! I had beast periods and heavy, heavy flow for about three days. It was awful.

I actually often wished for a turkey baster and a shop vac to suck all the blood out. Good thing I didn't know about menstrual extraction. I might have bought that turkey baster...

As far as abortion methods go, it at least seems more humane than the usual procedures, and I'm guessing it's a given that it has to be done very, very early -- maybe before the first missed period? I can certainly think of worse ways to do it.

By Pippinwhite — On Aug 12, 2014

I thought I was on board for something like this, until I saw you do it at home, with a group of women? Huh? That's just a little too personal for me.

The article says it has become a "crucial part of reproductive care communities." That just doesn't sound right. I've never heard of this procedure, much less of having it done at home. Not that I'm against the procedure itself -- I'm not. I just never had it in mind to have menstrual products sucked out of my body while a group of people observe the process. It's just a little too weird for me. If I could do it by myself, I might be more interested in the whole process. But as a group project? No thanks.

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