The Women's Centre
There are a variety of different methods of abortion available, depending on stage in pregnancy. It is important to consider your current and past state of health before deciding what methods are safe for you.
What to Expect
General Information Applying To All UK Abortions, Wherever They Are Done.
When you go for your first appointment, you should be given the opportunity to talk about your situation. You will be informed about the different methods of abortion, and which method is suitable for your stage of pregnancy. You should also be advised about any possible risks and complications that are related to the procedure.
You will be asked about your medical history.
Before having an abortion, you should be given a blood test to check your blood group and to see whether you are anaemic. You should also be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
You may be given antibiotics to stop an infection from occurring after the abortion.
There are also a number of things that you may require before having an abortion. These include:
- an ultrasound scan (if there is any doubt about how many weeks pregnant you are),
- a vaginal examination and
- a cervical smear test (if appropriate)
Finally, before having the abortion, you should be given a consent form to sign.
Methods of Abortion
Remember, your advisor should talk through all the risks of each method fully with you, before you choose which method you are interested in.
There are a number of different methods of abortion. You will be offered different methods depending on how many weeks pregnant you are. This is usually calculated by the number of weeks from the first day of your last period.
Some of the most commonly used methods are:
Early medical abortion (up to 9 weeks of pregnancy)
An early medical abortion involves taking two different medicines, 48 hours apart. The effect of the medication will be to cause the pregnancy to abort.
After your initial visit, you will have two more appointments.
On your first visit you will be given a tablet called mifepristone, which blocks the hormone that makes the lining of the womb suitable for the fertilised egg. After taking the first tablet, you will be able to go home, and can continue with your normal, everyday activities.
Two days later, on your second visit to the hospital, or clinic, you will be given the second medicine, prostaglandin. Within 4-6 hours of taking prostaglandin, the lining of the womb breaks down and is lost, along with the embryo, through bleeding from the vagina. This part of the process can be painful, but you can take pain releiving tablets.
The medicines that are used during an early medical abortion may make you feel sick, and you may vomit, or have diarrhoea.
Vacuum aspiration or suction termination (from 7 to 15 weeks of pregnancy)
Vacuum aspiration, or suction termination is a procedure that involves using suction to remove the foetus from the womb. The procedure usually takes between five and 10 minutes, and can be carried out under a local or general anaesthetic.
The entrance to the womb (cervix) is dilated (opened) to allow access to the foetus. To soften the cervix, and make it easier to open, a tablet may be placed in the vagina, a few hours before the abortion.
A small, plastic suction tube, connected to a pump, is then inserted into the womb and used to remove the foetus and surrounding tissue.
After a vacuum aspiration abortion, you will usually be able to go home the same day. However, following the procedure, you may experience a little bleeding, for up to 14 days. Infection may follow the procedure and you should be advised how to proceed if symptoms of infection present themselves.
Late medical abortion (from 13 weeks of pregnancy)
As well as being used for early abortion, mifepristone and prostaglandin can also be used for abortion later in pregnancy. However, the abortion will take longer, and more than one dose of prostaglandin may be needed.
Following the procedure, you may be able to return home the same day, but sometimes an overnight stay in hospital is required.
Surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E) (from 15 weeks of pregnancy):
Surgical dilation and evacuation (D&E) is a procedure that is carried out under general anaesthetic. The neck of the womb (cervix) is stretched and dilated (opened), and forceps and a suction tube are used to remove the foetus. The procedure usually takes between 10-20 minutes to perform and, if you are healthy, and there are no immediate complications, you may be able to return home the same day. You may have some bleeding after the abortion for up to 14 days.
There are two options for a late abortion carried out between 20-24 weeks.
Surgical two-stage abortion
The first is known as a surgical two-stage abortion each stage requies a general anaesthetic.
Stage one involves stopping the heart beat of the baby and softening the neck of the womb (cervix).
Stage two is carried out the following day and involves removing the baby and surrounding tissue using the D&E method explained above.
Surgical two-stage abortions usually require an overnight stay in a clinic/hospital.
Medically induced abortion
The second option is known as a medically induced abortion.
The medicine prostagland in is injected into the womb, causing it to contract strongly. This can last for between six and 12 hours.
During the process, you will remain awake and may be given medicines to control the pain.
Afterwards, the D&E process, explained above, may be used to ensure that the womb is completely empty.
You will usually need to stay overnight in hospital.
If, after having an abortion of any kind, you experience heavy bleeding, a lot of pain or a high temperature after leaving the clinic, you should seek medical help immediately.