What Happens in an Abortion?
Although Abortion is used as the umbrella term for ending a pregnancy, there are actually three different procedures that can take place.
A medical abortion involves taking medication to make the lining of your womb come away, ending your pregnancy. You can have a medical abortion up to the legal abortion limit of 24 weeks (in the US and UK) but your experience will be different depending on how long you've been pregnant. Up to ten weeks of pregnancy (or nine with the NHS), you go to a clinic and swallow a pill which initially has little effect. Then, 1-2 days later you come back and take another medicine which is placed either inside your vagina or between your cheek and gum in your mouth (at BPAS clinics, you may be able to take both pills on the same day in the early stages of pregnancy).
The medicine you take at a BPAS clinic makes the pregnancy end within four hours.
The further along you are, the longer the process will take, so you may have to stay in the clinic or hospital while you pass the pregnancy.
(up to 15 weeks) in which a small suction tube is placed in your cervix and the embryo is sucked out.
It involves inserting a tube through the entrance to the womb (the cervix) and into your womb. The pregnancy is then removed using suction. Your cervix will be gently widened (dilated) first. A tablet may be placed inside your vagina or taken by mouth a few hours beforehand to soften your cervix and make it easier to open.
Pain relief is usually given using medicines that you take by mouth, and local anaesthetic, which is numbing medicine injected into the cervix. You may also be offered some sedation, which is given by injection. A general anaesthetic isn't usually needed.
Vacuum aspiration takes about 5 to 10 minutes and most women go home a few hours later.
Suction abortion is the most common kind of abortion procedure.
Before your abortion, you’ll get pain medicine to help with cramping. You may be able to get sedation during the abortion. With some kinds of sedation, you’re awake but super relaxed, and with others you are completely asleep. You’ll also get antibiotics to help prevent infections.
A nurse or doctor may give you medication to help open your cervix before your abortion. Sometimes they also put small dilator sticks called laminaria into the opening of your cervix a day or a few hours before your procedure. The laminaria absorb fluid from your body and get bigger, which slowly stretches your cervix open.
In the procedure room, there will be a staff person there to help the doctor or nurse and support you during your abortion.
During a suction abortion procedure, the doctor or nurse will:
This type of abortion only takes about 5 to 10 minutes, but your appointment will take longer because you’ll need to have an exam, read and sign forms, and stay in the recovery room afterwards for up to about an hour.
Dilation and evacuation (15-24 weeks) in which the cervix is gently widened using forceps and the pregnancy is removed using a suction tube.
Dilatation and evacuation (D&E) Used from around 15 weeks of pregnancy. It involves inserting special instruments called forceps through the cervix and into the womb to remove the embryo.
The cervix is gently dilated for several hours or up to a day before the surgery to allow the forceps to be inserted.
D&E is carried out with conscious sedation or general anaesthetic. It normally takes about 10 to 20 minutes and you might be able to go home the same day.
D&E is usually used for abortions later than 16 weeks after your last period.
During a D&E abortion, the doctor or nurse will:
After an abortion, you can:
You may experience a range of emotions after an abortion. If you need to discuss how you're feeling, contact the abortion service or ask your GP about post-abortion counselling.
If you have a medical abortion, you may experience short lived side effects from the medications, such as nausea and diarrhoea. General anaesthetic and conscious sedation medication can also have side effects. For all types of abortion, it's likely you will experience some stomach cramps and vaginal bleeding, too. These usually last a week or two. Sometimes light vaginal bleeding after a medical abortion can last up to a month.
Having an abortion feels different for everyone — it can be super painful or just a little uncomfortable. Your level of discomfort can depend on the medications you get, how far into your pregnancy you are, and how much cramping and pain you have. For most people, it feels like strong period cramps.
These are a few websites and forums that could be helpful to visit before or after the doctor’s visit;
"Abortion - What Happens." NHS Choices. NHS, n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.
Preskey, Natasha. "What Actually Happens When You Have an Abortion?" Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan, 07 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 May 2017.
Parenthood, Planned. "What Happens During an In-Clinic Abortion?" Planned Parenthood. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.
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