Termination of pregnancy - Abortion care services

Local support services are available if required. You can refer yourself by calling 03457 30 40 30 or a healthcare professional can do this for you.

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Phone 020 8510 7445 to change an appointment -  or if you missed an appointment and/or need to be seen further times in the same pregnancy.

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You need to allow about two hours for your appointment. Please bring any medicines that you are taking and details of any medical conditions that you have. It is important to arrive on time, please.

You can bring a partner, relative or friend with you if you wish. You may want them to come into the consultation with you – it is your choice. However the doctor / nurse will need to see you on your own for some of the time.

We ask that you do not bring children with you (unless you have no alternative childcare) - it can be difficult to concentrate if you are looking after a child, and also it can be distressing for others.

If you need more time to consider any aspect of your decision or your feelings about it we book some more appointments. You should never feel rushed about the decision. 

You may also wish to see our counsellor who is available on our Thursday morning clinics. You would just need to come to that walk-in-and-wait counselling/support session to see them.

Eat and drink normally on the day of my appointment. If you chose a medical abortion or a surgical abortion under local anaesthetic (awake procedure) we want you to have eaten.

If you chose a surgical abortion under general anaesthetic (asleep procedure) this will not be on the same day as you first appointment, so we will advise you from when you need to starve.

What will happen on my first visit?

You have some measurements and tests, a scan and  then see a nurse or doctor

  • some measurements and tests: Usually you will start your visit by seeing one our Health Care Assistants and they will measure your height, weight and blood pressure and take some tests. Blood tests are done to identify your blood group and check for anaemia. 
    We also encourage everyone to have their blood tested for HIV and Syphilis – and to have a vaginal swab for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea (You may take the swab test yourself in the toilet). 
  • a scan: You will have a scan to confirm the number of weeks of the pregnancy (unless you have had one already). Please note that, unless you specifically ask to see, the sonographer will ensure that the screen is turned away. Similarly they will not offer you a scan picture unless you request one. Also friends or relatives are not allowed to be present during the scan, (unless there is a good reason to make an exception).
  • seeing a nurse or doctor: A nurse and/or doctor will take your medical history and talk to you about your decision. They will discuss any concerns or worries you have and answer any questions you have. 
    They will also give you advice and information about future contraception. We can offer or arrange for any method you choose.
    After the assessment of your general health and explanation of the different options available, you can be booked and you will be given written information with more details.

How will the abortion be carried out?
This may depend on the number of weeks of the pregnancy and any medical conditions you have. Usually, if you are below 10 weeks you can chose between a medical or a surgical abortion. We will help you decide but you might like to read some of the information below so you know a bit more. If you are more than 10 weeks then we would be recommending surgical/suction.

How is a surgical/suction abortion done?
(When less than 14 weeks) this is done using vacuum aspiration or gentle suction to remove the pregnancy from the womb. It takes about 10-15 minutes from start to finish. The treatment is can be performed with a general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic. A local anaesthetic means you will be awake for the procedure. A general anaesthetic means you will be asleep (unconscious). 

The cervix (entrance to the womb) is gently stretched, enough for the contents of the uterus to be removed with a suction tube.

For a general anaesthetic you are in the Day-Stay Unit for about half a day but with local anaesthetic you are in the Women’s Health Unit for a few hours – (see also “Support & Escorts” below). (For pregnancies later than 14 weeks there is another stage in the treatment)

How is a medical abortion done?
You will need to take medication on two different days by attending two appointments – but if you are ready we can start the treatment as part of your first consultation/appointment. 

The first tablet is Mifepristone. You can have a normal day after this has been taken i.e. you may return to work and/or continue to look after any children in your care. The second medication is Misoprostol tablets and these will bring on pain and bleeding which usually starts soon after the tablets have been given - but for some it is not until a bit later. You will not be able to work on this day, nor look after any children in your care – see “Support & Escorts” below. 

What is the SAME for both medical and suction?
Infection and retained products are common but easily treatable problems that occur in the two weeks after the abortion. 

There is no difference in the risk between a medical or surgical abortion. Neither type of abortion is likely to cause complications in future pregnancies. 

What is DIFFERENT for medical and suction?
All methods of early abortion carry a small risk of failure to end the pregnancy. For a medical this is uncommon, occurring in fewer than 1 in 100 women. For a surgical this is rare, occurring much less often. 

Bleeding is longer after a medical abortion. It is usually heavier than a period and often accompanied by clots. On average, women bleed for 9 -14 days following a medical abortion but some will have bleeding for up to 3 or 4 weeks.

After a surgical abortion bleeding will last about 7-10 day. There is pain with a medical abortion and it can be severe, but in most cases is not worse than a bad period pain.

For a surgical abortion with general anaesthetic you are asleep during the procedure. You wake-up with little or no pain.

For a surgical abortion with local anaesthetic you will feel cramping, similar to bad period pains, during the procedure. For some women it is more uncomfortable.

Support & Escorts
For a surgical abortion with general anaesthetic you are in the day-stay unit for about half a day and you must arrange for an adult to take you home (your escort) and an adult must also be with you overnight.

For a surgical abortion with local anaesthetic you are in the Women’s Health Unit for a few hours and do not need an escort home.

For a medical abortion you may go home after the treatment is given but an adult should then be with you at home. We will like to know that you can get back to the hospital if necessary, you have a phone at home. Someone else should be taking responsibility for any children in your care and you will not be able to work the day of the misoprostol.

We would recommend that you do not travel – and certainly do not fly – until a week or two after having an abortion.

How safe is abortion?
Abortion, at any time in pregnancy, is a safe procedure for which serious complications are uncommon. The earlier in the pregnancy you have an abortion, the safer it is. 

An abortion is safer than carrying a pregnancy and having a baby, but all medical and surgical procedures have some risks. We are here to help and can answer any questions or concerns that you have when we see you. 

Useful websites
NHS Choices