This article is for anyone who is planning to attend a pregnancy termination clinic for the first time. Abortion is a common procedure, with around 1 in 4 fertilisations ending in abortion worldwide. Legal abortion is safe and effective when carried out in the first trimester (12 weeks).
This article will outline what to expect prior to, during and following the procedure.
Prior to the abortion
You have probably found out that you are expecting via a test; these detect a hormone made by the uterus following gestation (called hCG). Early gestation symptoms include fatigue, changes in appetite, nausea, sore breasts and increased urination. You could also experience light spotting within the first 8 weeks. It is always recommended to take a test to know for sure.
During the abortion
Before attending a pregnancy termination clinic it is important to determine what kind of abortion you will be selecting. The most common two are:
This generally takes the form of a pill which is swallowed or placed in the cervix. The abortion pill is available to take up until around 10-12 weeks, potentially longer (check with your doctor). You will generally take one pill at the pregnancy termination clinic and then take one more at home. After you have taken the second pill, you will likely experience cramping, bleeding and an emptying of the uterus in the following hours (symptoms similar to a miscarriage). The entire process takes 1-2 days, though cramping and bleeding may continue for several days. You will generally attend a follow-up appointment one to two weeks later.
Over 95 in 100 people who use this method do not require further treatment. The few that do will use another pill or surgical procedure as a follow up. Serious complications are rare.
A surgical abortion involves the removal of the contents of the uterus. This is done in a pregnancy termination clinic or a hospital. This procedure is generally available until week 16 though it depends on the country. It involves taking a medication 1-2 hours before the procedure, followed by an anaesthetic to numb the pain of the surgery (if desired). The surgeon will then insert an instrument into the cervix and the uterus, where its contents will be removed using suction. This process takes around 5-10 minutes. Once over, the patient will stay in the pregnancy termination clinic to rest for about half an hour before going home.
First trimester surgical abortions are safe and effective 99 times out of 100. In rare cases, a follow-up procedure may be necessary. Serious complications are very rare. Surgical abortions are more invasive but are quicker and slightly more effective than medication abortions.
Once you have made your decision, ensure you are prepared for the event. The pregnancy termination clinic may let you chat to a counsellor or staff member about your decision to help you feel comfortable and not pressured. A healthcare provider should then perform a physical exam and tests, such as blood tests. They should provide you with written instructions about what to expect during and after the procedure as well as who to contact once you’ve gone home. You may want to bring something comforting along with you, such as a hot water bottle, music or a friend.
Following an abortion
Once you’ve left the pregnancy termination clinic, it’s important to take it easy for the next few days. You may experience hormonal fluctuations, soreness and fatigue. Ensure that you have plenty of rest and avoid vaginal penetration for at least 2 weeks following the procedure to prevent infection.