Termination of pregnancy is a much more common occurrence than people generally realise.

Research shows that one in every three women will decide to have an abortion before they reach the age of forty-five.

If you have recently decided to terminate your pregnancy, you will need to find the right place to have the procedure that’s both convenient and suitable, and where you feel safe and well-looked after.

This article on abortion and abortion clinics is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

There are two main, well-known abortion clinic providers in the UK: the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), and Marie Stopes International, both of which are reputable, non-profit organisations. Together, they provide almost all abortions outside the NHS. If you want to find a clinic near to where you live, or indeed anywhere in the country, you could read either website BPAS or Marie Stopes, or use our pregnancy termination enquiry form and we will send a reply with information about prices and locations within 48 hours.

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 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 overnight, 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

Medical termination

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. Painkillers, including morphine, are available to dull the pain, as you need not experience any discomfort.

Surgical termination

This is the most common method of abortion and takes approximately five to ten minutes. Depending on the type of procedure used and how far advanced the pregnancy is, you can either have just a local anaesthetic, gas and air, a short-acting general anaesthetic, or deep sedation.

Vacuum aspiration – involves gently stretching the cervix using thin metal rods, and emptying the uterus with a gentle manual or electric suction. This procedure usually takes between ten - fifteen minutes to complete.

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) – involves taking a tablet to soften the cervix and having dilators inserted to help to stretch it open (during pregnancy the cervix is closed). If you are more than twenty weeks into your pregnancy, a doctor will insert a needle into the uterus to inject medicine to stop the foetal heart. The following day, you will be given a general anaesthetic and forceps will be used to remove the pregnancy.

These days it’s unusual to need an overnight stay for any of the pregnancy termination procedures mentioned above, but it’s a good idea to check beforehand so you can make appropriate plans. When choosing an abortion clinic, make sure they provide the service you’re interested in, and that the total price is quoted upfront. As you may have to make several trips, you might want to choose one near to where you live, or alternatively you may want to stay in a hotel or bed and breakfast near a clinic if it’s further away.

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