How are abortions carried out?

The type of abortion you have depends on how early on in your pregnancy you are having the abortion.

There are two main early abortion methods:

Early Medical abortion - known as 'the abortion pill'

Early medical abortion can be performed in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. It does not involve any surgery. The woman is given a pill (mifepristone) and 36 to 48 hours later, a tablet (prostaglandin) is taken orally or placed in her vagina. These two drugs end most early pregnancies within the following four hours.

It feels like having a heavy period.

This method is not available everywhere. Women should check with the referring doctor whether this method is available on the NHS in their area.

Vacuum aspiration - known as 'the suction method'

This method is available up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. For this procedure you will be given either a general or local anaesthetic. The abortion is carried out through the vagina and there is no wound or stitches. It only takes about 5 - 10 minutes.

Your cervix (the entrance to the womb at the top of the vagina) is gently stretched to allow a tube to pass through it into the womb. Once the tube is inserted the pregnancy is removed by suction. Most women only take an hour or so to recover go home the same day. Women often experience less bleeding afterwards with this method.

Abortions after 15 weeks

Methods used for later abortions will depend on the stage of pregnancy. The exact procedure will be explained by a doctor or nurse before the abortion goes ahead.

If you would like more information, you can get in touch with Ask Brook. Ask Brook is confidential. That means we won't tell anyone you contacted us unless we think you're in really serious danger.

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