The decision to have an early medical termination (abortion) is an important one. This page will give you information on the choices you have and what is involved.
About a third of women in the UK will have an early medical termination (abortion) by the time they are 45.
Talking to your partner
If you are in a relationship, you might want to talk to your partner about your options. You may want to consider your circumstances together. But even if your partner is the person who you became pregnant with, that doesn’t mean they can tell you what decision to make. It’s your body and your choice.
What does this mean for me
Early medical termination (abortion) is a very safe procedure. The earlier an early medical termination (abortion) is carried out, the safer it is.
Lots of studies have found that early medical termination (abortion) is unlikely to affect your chances of becoming pregnant in future.
There are some risks associated with early medical terminations (abortions) to be aware of. These are rare and usually happen within a short period following the procedure:
Where to go
If you want to have an early medical termination (abortion) through the NHS, you’ll usually need to be referred to a specialist service that deals with early medical termination (abortion). You can ask your GP to refer you or you can go to your local sexual and reproductive health clinic. Find your nearest clinic.
In most areas of England you can refer yourself. To find out if you can self-refer for NHS-funded early medical termination (abortion) care, call 0300 456 2217 if you are a Dorset resident .
Generally, an early medical termination (abortion) should be carried out as early in the pregnancy as possible, usually before 12 weeks and ideally before 9 weeks where possible.
In the UK, it is legal to have an early medical termination (abortion) up to 24 weeks. If there is a serious health risk to a mother or baby, this can be extended.
During your first appointment a clinician will give you the opportunity to talk about your situation and which method of early medical termination (abortion) is suitable for your stage of pregnancy.
You should also be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
You may also be given information and advice about your contraceptive choices after the early medical termination (abortion).
Before having an early medical termination (abortion), you may also need to have:
You will be asked to sign a consent form before the early medical termination (abortion) is carried out.
Yes, the early medical termination (abortion) will usually go on your health record if you have been referred by your GP. If you self-refer, the clinic may encourage you to allow them to inform your GP but this is not automatically done as it is a confidential service.
Early medical termination (abortion) - up to 9 weeks and 6 days
An early stage medical termination (abortion) is possible without an internal procedure. Three clinic appointments are needed.
You will be asked to take 2 different medicines 24-48 hours apart.
Some services have facilities for this process to happen at the clinic. Some women prefer to go through this process at home. This can be your choice.
This method uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb. The procedure usually takes 5 to 10 minutes and can be carried out in a day surgery unit under either sedation local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic. If you have sedation or general anaesthetic you will need to have someone with you after the procedure and you will not be able to drive home yourself.
You will usually be able to go home the same day.
Following the procedure, you will usually experience vaginal bleeding for up to 21 days.
In most cases, the bleeding will be quite heavy for 2 to 3 days before settling down. You may experience cramps for which you can take painkillers at home.
This is a surgical procedure carried out under general anaesthetic. It usually takes 10-20 minutes and, if you are healthy and there are no complications, you may be able to return home the same day.
Your cervix will be gently stretched and dilated. Forceps and a suction tube will be used to remove the foetus and tissue within the womb.
You may experience vaginal bleeding for up to 21 days afterwards.
This method uses the same medication as an early medical abortion but will take longer and more than one dose of medication may be needed.
You will usually be able to return home on the same day. However, sometimes an overnight stay in hospital may be required.
In a small number of cases (less than 1 in 20), the placenta or afterbirth does not pass. In this case, you may need to have a small operation under a general anaesthetic to remove the placenta.
There are 2 options and both require an overnight stay in hospital and are carried out under general anaesthetic.
All of these procedures can feel invasive and distressing, so you may want to consider having someone nearby to support you when you leave hospital. It’s also important to talk to your clinician about what to expect during and after any procedure.
An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to create an image of part of the inside of the body. Ultrasound scans can give a more accurate estimation of the length of the pregnancy than counting the weeks from the last period.
The Abortion Act 1967 covers England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland.
It states, early medical termination (abortion) can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy as long as:
The law states an early medical termination (abortion) may be carried out after 24 weeks in rare cases where:
This is usually picked up during the routine ultrasound screening tests that are part of antenatal care.
From the first day of your last period. For women with a menstrual cycle of average length, that day is usually about 2 weeks before conception, which explains why pregnancies are said to last 40 weeks.
Depending on the length of the pregnancy, a small pregnancy sac may be visible.
Most of the time women can see blood and tissue in their sanitary pad or in the toilet. The (very small) embryo is usually passed within this blood and tissue, and so often goes unnoticed.
At 8-9 weeks pregnant, you might see a sac in the blood and it may be possible to see the embryo (at this stage the embryo is about 2.5 cm) this can be distressing. It is best to flush the toilet and throw sanitary pads away as usual.
No, your fertility should return to normal after an uncomplicated abortion. In fact, women can be experienced an increase in their fertility soon after a termination so it is important to start contraception straight away to prevent another pregnancy from happening