What happens during an abortion?

Three different abortion procedures:

Early medical abortion, Vacuum aspiration, Surgical dilation and evacuation

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There are three different abortion procedures:

Early medical abortion (up to nine weeks)

This involves two appointments, usually two days apart. Initial treatment with a hormone blocking tablet (mifepristone) stops the pregnancy continuing. Prostaglandin tablets or pessaries (which are inserted in the vagina) then make the womb expel the pregnancy. This method is not yet available everywhere.

Vacuum aspiration or suction termination (usually from 7 to 15 weeks of pregnancy)

The passage through the cervix (entrance to the womb) is dilated, gently stretched, and opened. The contents of the womb are removed with a suction tube passed through the cervix. This takes five to ten minutes and can be carried out under local or general anaesthetic.

Surgical dilatation and evacuation (D&E (from about 15 weeks of pregnancy)

The cervix is dilated and the pregnancy removed in fragments, using a suction tube and forceps. This usually needs a general anaesthetic. You may be able to go home the same day if you are healthy and the pregnancy is less than 18 weeks. Abortion after 20 weeks is uncommon and involves either surgical dilatation and evacuation or ‘medical induction’, which causes a labour similar to a miscarriage. You will need to spend one or two nights in hospital.

Is abortion safe?

Not entirely, problems are less likely early on. You should be advised of any potential complications related to the type of abortion you have and your stage of pregnancy. Infection is the most common problem after a surgical abortion. Most infections are easy to treat. Other problems may include prolonged bleeding.

Will abortion affect my chances of having a baby in future?

There is no harm to future fertility from a trouble-free abortion. Fertility can be affected by injury to the womb or serious infection, but this rarely happens. You should have a check-up within two weeks.

Abortion Law

Click here for the current state of abortion law in the UK.

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