An abortion involves ending a pregnancy either by taking medicines or having surgery. The type of operation you have will depend on how long you have been pregnant.
Making a decision about having an abortion is often difficult and the hospital staff you see on your visit will be understanding and supportive and will ensure your confidentiality.
The decision to have an abortion is often difficult and we appreciate the sensitive nature of the procedure. There are many reasons why someone might decide to end a pregnancy such as personal circumstances, a high risk the baby will have an abnormality (this may have been determined after a nuchal scan) and risks to the mother's own health and well being.
Funding for NHS abortion services varies, with provision ranging from more than 90% of local demand in some parts of the country to less than 60% elsewhere. In some places, the NHS will pay for you to have an abortion at a private clinic, but you may need to pay yourself. (source: NHS)
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
Terminating a pregnancy can be potentially damaging, both physically and emotionally. Before you have a termination, two doctors must agree that, on balance, continuing the pregnancy could be more harmful for you. For this reason it is important that you bring with you a medical form with the signatures of two doctors agreeing that the termination should be done.
We will explain how you will be cared for during your stay and will do some simple tests such as checking your heart rate and blood pressure, and testing your urine. Your consultant may also visit you before the operation. This is a good time to ask any unanswered questions.
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For more information on visiting hours, our food, what to pack if you're staying with us, parking and all those other important practicalities, please visit our patient information pages.
Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, holding your hand, every step of the way.
A few hours before the procedure you may be given medicine to help relax the entrance to your womb (cervix). This is usually given as a tablet (pessary) which is placed into your vagina. The drug works better and has fewer side-effects this way than taking the tablet orally.
Surgical abortions are usually done under general anaesthesia, which means you'll be asleep during the procedure and will feel no pain.
There are several different surgical techniques available for terminating a pregnancy. The type of technique used depends on how long you have been pregnant. Two common surgical techniques used are vacuum aspiration and dilation and evacuation.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your consultant will insult a speculum into your vagina (similar to having a smear test) so they can view your cervix. The cervix is then gently stretched and opened (dilated).
Vacuum aspiration is used for pregnancies between seven to 12 weeks. During the procedure, a tube with a round end is inserted into your womb through the dilated cervix. Suction is applied to remove the womb contents. This operation lasts 10 to 15 minutes.
For pregnancies between 12 to 19 weeks, you will have a dilation and evacuation procedure. This involves two stages.
First, your consultant will insert a curved instrument (a curette) into your womb through the dilated cervix and gently scrape the lining of the womb. Next, vacuum aspiration is performed to remove the womb contents. This operation lasts 30 minutes.
After all terminations, the removed tissue is examined to make sure the procedure is complete. The womb contents will be disposed of sensitively. Please let your consultant or nurse know if you have particular wishes about disposing of the tissue.
A surgical abortion is generally carried out as a day case, so you won't need to stay overnight in hospital. After the procedure, you will be taken from the operating theatre to a recovery room, where you will come round from the anaesthesia under close supervision. After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you're ready to go home. Your friends and family will be able to visit pretty much anytime you want – we have flexible visiting hours.
After a termination, you may have some slight abdominal pain, similar to period pain.
You may experience some vaginal bleeding for the first two weeks after the abortion. Your womb will be more at risk of infection until your cervix has returned to its normal size. For this reason, you should use sanitary towels, not tampons, until you stop bleeding.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After a surgical abortion, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication medical advice and follow-up support.
Specific complications of surgical terminations include accidental damage to the womb or the cervix. Rarely, some tissue can be left in the womb. If this happens, vacuum aspiration may have to be repeated. In very rare cases, the vacuum aspiration may miss an ectopic pregnancy, where the fetus grows outside the womb. If this happens, you will need further surgery.
You are more likely to have problems, if any, in the two weeks after the termination. Therefore, it is important to have a check-up within two weeks afterwards. We may arrange to see you at a follow-up, outpatient appointment, or ask you to see your GP.
Most women experience no problems after having a termination, but please contact the hospital immediately if you develop heavy, continuous bleeding, severe pain, raised temperature or fever. We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, we're ready to help.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.