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The Abortion Process

Abortion can feel like a scary thing if you don’t know what to expect. Find out about the abortion procedure from start to finish, including how you might feel afterwards.

Abortion is when someone sometimes chooses to end a pregnancy because they don’t want to have a baby. It is sometimes called ‘termination’.

Find out more about abortion.

Find out about accessing abortion services.

What will happen before an abortion?

Your first contact with an abortion service may be by phone. Depending on how many weeks pregnant you are, or how sure you are of that, you may have a telephone consultation or be asked to attend a clinic appointment.

If you attend a clinic you may be offered a finger prick blood test, STI tests and an ultrasound scan which can help the doctors know exactly how far along the pregnancy is, so they know the best abortion procedure to use.

If they need to give you a vaginal examination or use a vaginal ultrasound and you’ve not had one before, don’t worry – just let the nurse or doctor know, and they should tell you what to expect, and will be extra careful with you.

You may have a chance to talk about different types of contraception with a doctor or nurse, so that you can choose a method which works for you.

Finally, you will be asked to provide formal consent, to agree that you understand what is about to happen. You can still change your mind about having an abortion even after you have signed the form – just let the clinic or hospital staff know as soon as you do.

Read our page on making a decision about abortion.

What will happen on the day of an abortion?

How and where an abortion takes place will depend on the type of abortion and how many weeks pregnant you are.

An early medical abortion will take place at home or at another place you feel comfortable. After taking the first part of the medication mifepristone, you can carry on as normal going to school or work. When you take the second part of the medication, misoprostol, 24-48 hours later, the abortion will begin to take place. Read this guide from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for more information on medical abortion.

If you are going to a clinic most abortions take place in one day, with no need to stay overnight. When you go to the abortion clinic, make sure to take all your documents with you, like any letters from your GP or the sexual health clinic.

For some types of abortion, you might have to fast (not eat) on the day – the abortion provider will make sure you know what to do, so just follow their instructions.

If you take any other types of medicine, for example if you have an inhaler for asthma or if you carry an EpiPen for allergies, make sure to take this with you, too.

You can take one person along for support, who can sit with you in the waiting room, and meet you afterwards. This can be anyone you like – a parent, relative or friend. If you are having a general anaesthetic you will be asked to bring an adult to go home with to ensure you are looked after.

It’s a good idea to take some sanitary towels with you, along with a clean pair of underwear. You might experience bleeding – like a heavier than usual period – after an abortion, so it’s best to be prepared.

Sadly, some people who are against abortion protest outside clinics, and try and tell people going in to clinics that abortion is wrong and they shouldn’t have one. This can be really upsetting. Taking someone with you can help. If you’re worried, you can call the clinic and ask for an escort inside, or see if there is another entrance you can use.

What will happen after an abortion?

How you might feel physically

Immediately after an abortion, you might feel a bit woozy, or wobbly. If you can, it’s good to be able to have some rest, and some time to relax and recover. If you are in any discomfort, you can take painkillers like aspirin or paracetamol – you can ask at the clinic about what you can take.

Medical abortion will result in bleeding. Some bleeding is normal after any kind of abortion, but if the bleeding hasn’t stopped after two weeks, you should go and see a doctor or contact the clinic where you were treated. If the pain becomes really bad, and/or if you are bleeding very heavily, and/or if you have a high temperature you should also go to a doctor as soon as you can or call NHS 111.

Please use sanitary towels rather than tampons if there is any bleeding, and wait until your next period to use tampons again. It’s also a good idea to not have penetrative sex until you feel sufficiently recovered from the abortion.

Please note

You can get pregnant immediately following an abortion so if you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s important to use contraception. Talk to Brook, or to a sexual health clinic, to find out which type of contraception works best for you.

How you might feel emotionally

The majority of people who have abortions say that the main emotion they feel afterwards is relief.

That’s not true in all cases, and if you feel sad or upset you can talk to a counsellor (see below for places you can go to get help). Watch out for crisis pregnancy centres, which sometimes offer to help with mixed feelings but may actually make people feel guilty after having an abortion. How you feel will depend on who you are and what your life is like, and everyone will have a different experience.

In most people’s cases, any feelings of sadness will fade in time, and many studies have found that abortion has no long lasting effect on mental health. If you find you are still really sad, though, please see a doctor or a counsellor, as it could be depression or another mental health issue which is affecting you.

Read this helpful guide from the British Pregnancy Advice Service on how you might feel physically and emotionally after an abortion.

Finding Support

Brook services do not perform abortions but we do provide emergency contraception, pregnancy tests and abortion referrals. This means that Brook can provide you with emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, and if you are pregnant and want to end the pregnancy – we can refer and support you into other services near you that provide abortions.

If you would like more help or advice about abortion you can:

If you need help quickly

If you need help quickly you can contact these organisations:

  • For medical advice contact NHS by dialling 111 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • For help if you’re under 18 contact Childline on 0800 1111
  • For urgent emotional support contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90


    Other Stuff you might find useful…

    Accessing Abortion Services
    Real Stories
    Abortion: Helen’s Story
    What is abortion?
    Abortion: advice for partners
    Pregnancy test: Am I pregnant?


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