Current legislation in Britain states that women may have abortions any time up to twenty-four weeks into a pregnancy (and in some rare circumstances after this date), although many hospitals or clinics will not perform the operation after eighteen or twenty weeks. In cases where there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life, or in cases of foetal abnormality, there is no legal time limit for abortion. Abortions at this very late stage are conducted at NHS hospitals.
Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy this could be an important factor in choosing your abortion clinic.
There are two methods for terminating a pregnancy and different options for pain relief. Some procedures many require you to stay over night, others allow you to go home a few hours later. These differences can affect the price.
The two methods for ending a pregnancy are:
- Medical termination – taking drugs to produce a short labour and expulsion of the foetus
- Surgical termination – a minor operation where the surgeon removes the foetus
Up to 9 weeks
This method involves swallowing a small pill (usually mifepristone) which stops the effects of progesterone that’s naturally produced in high quantities during pregnancy. Two days later you will need to return to the hospital to have four tablets of misoprostol inserted vaginally, which will bring on cramping within a few hours. You may be allowed to go home for the abortion to happen, which can take between four and six hours to complete. You will need a follow up appointment to confirm the medicines have been completely effective and that there is no remaining tissue.
9-23 weeks 5 days
You will have two visits to your hospital, the first in order to swallow a small mifepristone tablet to stop the effects of progesterone, and the second to allow the pregnancy to finish.
If your pregnancy is more than twenty weeks you will need an additional procedure at this point: under local anaesthetic or a light general anaesthetic a doctor will insert a needle into the uterus to inject a medicine which stops the foetal heart.
After two days or so you will need to go back to the hospital where some more pills will be inserted vaginally in order to bring on contractions. After a few hours (usually between six and eight) the pregnancy will have ended. Pain killers, including morphine, are available to dull the pain, as you need not experience any discomfort.