Having an Abortion
An abortion is the process of terminating an unwanted pregnancy or it can be used to terminate a pregnancy if to continue with the pregnancy would be dangerous. No matter what the reasons are for a termination, the decision to end a pregnancy is never an easy one and should be discussed thoroughly both with your partner (if you have one) and /or with a clinical specialist.
It should be pointed out, however, that you have the right to confidentiality if you seek advice on abortion and, even if you’re under 16, neither your GP, parents nor partner will be informed without your consent.
What Does Having an Abortion Involve?A termination can be carried out in different ways and all of the options will be discussed with you when you go for an initial consultation. The range of options may, however, be restricted depending on what stage of pregnancy you’re at. An abortion is either carried out using drugs, often referred to as a ‘medical abortion’ or by way of a surgical procedure. Unless there are complications, patients who are undergoing abortion can usually go home the same day.
Medical AbortionThis is the most common and effective method of abortion for women who are less than 7 weeks pregnant. It involves visiting the clinic on two separate occasions. The tablets you are asked to take on the first visit block any further production of hormones which would enable the pregnancy to continue whilst on the second visit you will take prostaglandin which is a hormone which can come either in tablet form or as vaginal pessaries which are inserted into your vagina.
This will cause the womb to expel the pregnancy within about 4 to 6 hours. It is sometimes possible to use this method for women who are beyond 9 weeks pregnant but it takes a lot longer and an even higher dosage of prostaglandin is required.
Surgical AbortionSuction termination is usually the preferred method once the pregnancy has gone beyond 9 weeks, although it can be used earlier. It is sometimes carried out under general anaesthetic although local anaesthetic can be used instead which would just numb the area around your cervix. Here, the cervix, which is the entrance to the womb, is stretched gently until it is wide enough for a suction tube to be inserted and the contents of the womb to be removed.
Suction dilatation and evacuation, known as D&E, is usually the only option in a pregnancy which has gone beyond 15 weeks. You’d normally have this performed under a general anaesthetic and because the pregnancy will, by now, have become more formed, it involves a combination of using a suction tube together with forceps in order to empty the womb.
Is Abortion Painful?Whether it’s the early stages of pregnancy using medical abortion or a more advanced stage using suction termination or suction D&E, most women will experience a degree of discomfort and pain following an abortion, although you will be given pain killing medication to counteract this.
Is Abortion Safe?Abortion is a very safe procedure these days and you’re more at risk of infection in the first 2 weeks after an abortion, (although you’ll be given antibiotics to reduce the risk), than you are to suffer any damage to your cervix or womb and abortion does not affect your chances of becoming pregnant again so, if you are not planning to become pregnant but might be resuming sexual activity shortly afterwards, you need to ensure that you begin using contraceptives straight away.
The most common problems surrounding abortion are the psychological effects that it can have on those who have been through it afterwards which can continue for a long time. These are discussed in another article contained on this website entitled ‘Coping After An Abortion’.