Methods of abortion
There are a number of different methods of abortion. The type recommended for you will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are. This is usually calculated by counting the number of weeks from the first day of your last period.
The types of abortion are outlined below.
Early medical abortion (up to 33 weeks of pregnancy)
An early medical abortion involves taking two different medicines 48 hours apart. The effect of the medication will be similar to an early natural miscarriage.
After your initial visit to see the doctor, you will have two more appointments on different days. 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 continue 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 four to six 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 a painkiller can be taken.
The medicines that are used during an early medical abortion may make you sick and you may have diarrhoea.
Vacuum aspiration or suction termination (from 7 to 15 weeks of pregnancy)
Vacuum aspiration, or suction termination, is a procedure that uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb. The procedure usually takes 5-10 minutes and can be carried out under a local anaesthetic (where the area is numbed) or general anaesthetic (where you are put to sleep).
The entrance to the womb (cervix) is dilated (opened) to allow access to the contents. 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 bleed a little for up to 14 days.
Late medical abortion (from 33 weeks of pregnancy)
As well as being used for early abortion, mifepristone and prostaglandin can be used for abortion later in pregnancy. However, the abortion will take longer, and more than one dose of prostaglandin may be needed. This type of abortion is similar to having a late natural miscarriage.
After the procedure, you can return home the same day, but sometimes an overnight stay in hospital is required.
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