Methods of abortion

There is more than type of abortion but which one you will have will depend upon your health, the stage of your pregnancy and your circumstances.

Your medical history will have been taken prior to treatment. If you have any current health problems then this will affect the type of treatment you have. One example is if you opt for a surgical abortion under a general anaesthetic but you suffer from a heart condition or asthma. These may rule out a general anaesthetic which then limits your choice of treatment.

The choice of treatment is linked to how many weeks pregnant you are. So, the earlier you are in your pregnancy the less intrusive the procedure, which also means a quicker recovery.

So, what types of abortion are available?

These include:

These are all discussed as individual sections.

If you choose a surgical abortion then you have two options: suction method (also known as vacuum aspiration) and dilation & evacuation (D & E).

You will find that the choice of treatment varies slightly between clinics. These choices depend upon the stage of your pregnancy but all options will be discussed beforehand.

A late abortion is carried out in the latter stages of a pregnancy and can be carried out in two ways. A two stage surgical abortion or a medical abortion which also include dilation and evacuation.

Both of these require an overnight stay in hospital.

Medical abortion

A medical abortion or ‘abortion pill’ is carried out in the early stages of pregnancy. This is usually up to the 9th week of pregnancy although it can be given at a later stage.

It involves you taking two types of medication at least 48 hours apart. The idea is that this medication will induce an abortion, the effects of which will be very similar to a miscarriage.

The abortion pill procedure

During your initial consultation with your GP or clinic doctor, he/she will discuss the procedure with you before arranging two further appointments. These appointments will be separated by a 48 hour period.

Up to 9 weeks of pregnancy

On the first appointment you will be given medication (tablet) called mifepristone. This prevents hormones from preparing the lining of your womb to receive the fertilised egg.

In other words, it stops hormones for allowing your pregnancy to continue.

Once you have taken this tablet you are free to go home and continue with your normal activities.

You then return to the hospital or clinic 48 hours later to receive the second form of medication (another tablet). This is called prostaglandin which causes uterine contractions and vaginal bleeding.

The lining of the womb breaks down within 6 hours of taking prostaglandin which is then expelled from the vagina along with the foetus. This bleeding is accompanied by cramps and is very similar to a very heavy period.

This is a painful stage of the procedure although taking a painkiller can help. But bear in mind that there can be side effects with these which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Nine to 12 weeks of pregnancy

The same treatment as mentioned above although you will be given an extra dose of prostaglandin.

Over 12 weeks of pregnancy

This treatment requires several doses of prostaglandins until the foetus is expelled from the body. It may require an overnight stay in the hospital or clinic.

Exclusions from taking the abortion pill

This abortion pill is the most effective and straightforward way of inducing an abortion but is not suitable for every woman. The following factors will exclude you from taking the abortion pill:

  • You have had an ectopic pregnancy
  • You are aged over 35 and a regular smoker
  • You have adrenal failure
  • You have a medical history of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney or liver disease.
  • You are currently taking corti-costeroids
  • You have inadequately controlled inflammatory bowel disease
  • You are taking anti-coagulant medication
  • You have porphyria or any haemorrhagic disease
  • You have an IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) fitted

Your GP or abortion clinic will be able to advise you further about this.

If a medical abortion is not recommended or is not appropriate then the other option is a surgical abortion.

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