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Abortion: Frequently asked questions

You might have lots of questions which we are happy to answer when you call or visit the clinic. We answer some of the things people ask and give links for more information below:

What happens at the clinic?
What happens after the abortion?

What does an abortion cost and can I get it on the NHS?

Most women living in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) can have their treatment paid for by the NHS (96% of BPAS clients in 2014). Check if this applies to you when you call 03457 30 40 30 to book.

If you need to fund your own treatment click here for prices

How confidential is the service?

Very – we understand the need for confidentiality and have a legal duty to protect your privacy. We keep information about you safe and secure. It’s usual for healthcare providers to inform GPs that we have treated their patients - we will ask you if it is OK to contact your GP. Click here for more information about your health records.

Why do I have to give my personal details?

We collect the minimum information needed to treat you safely, legally and check if your treatment can be funded by the NHS. We protect all the information you give us and use it to deliver and improve care.

Can my partner stay with me?

Your partner can stay to support you, and you can re-join them in the waiting room in between each stage of your consultation and treatment. As with other medical procedures, there will be tests/observations needed to ensure your wellbeing and these can take some time. We need to protect the privacy of others in our clinics so partners won’t usually be with you for surgery or recovery.  

What if I change my mind?

You can change your mind at any time - we want you to be totally sure. Call 03457304030 to cancel or rearrange your appointment so your appointment isn’t wasted. You can also call if you want to book some or more pregnancy options counselling.

Will abortion affect my ability to get pregnant in the future?

If your treatment is uncomplicated it won’t cause any issues with future pregnancies. There is no proven connection between abortion and future infertility, ectopic pregnancy or other pregnancy complications. Abortion can be associated with future pregnancies ending before the due date; this risk increases with each abortion but the medical evidence is not enough to show a connection. We use evidence based information to provide you with all the information necessary to make the decision that is right for you. A healthcare professional will explain all the known risks and complications associated with your treatment choice.

Does having an abortion increase my chance of getting breast cancer?

No - there is no proven link between breast cancer and abortion.

Do I have to see the scan?

We make sure you won’t see any images unless you want to.

Is abortion legal?

Abortion is legal in England, Scotland and Wales providing it meets the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act. The law allows doctors to end a pregnancy if they believe that: 

  • continuing the pregnancy would be harmful to the physical or mental health of the woman or her existing children
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  • an abortion would be less risky than continuing the pregnancy, or
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  • there is substantial risk that if the child was born it would suffer mental abnormality or serious physical handicap.

Two doctors must certify that the legal grounds for abortion are met, but do not have to meet the woman personally.

Abortion care must be carried out in premises which are licensed with the Department of Health and which are regulated.  BPAS provides abortion treatment up to 24 weeks.

When there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life, or a fetal (foetal) abnormality, there is no legal time limit for abortion. Abortions after 24 weeks must take place at NHS hospitals. The charity ARC Antenatal Results and Choices provides information and support about fetal abnormality.

See www.bpas.ie for more information if you live in Ireland

Treatment

How long you are in the clinic depends on which treatment you choose. Look at the different treatment options here.

What are the risks?

Abortion treatment is very safe, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. No clinical procedure is without risk and these are fully explained to you before treatment.

Which treatment is best?

The best treatment for you depends how many weeks pregnant you are, the results of your medical assessment and your preference. The abortion treatment type we offer you will be based on clinical opinion and best practice guidelines. We’ll discuss this with you fully before treatment.

Is treatment painful/does it hurt?

This depends on the type of abortion you choose, and your own pain tolerance limit. We will make you as comfortable as possible.

     
  • Surgical abortion asleep (general anaesthetic) up to 24 weeks (Vacuum aspiration and dilatation and evacuation) – you will not feel pain during the procedure. Anaesthetic is given through a cannula (thin plastic tube) placed into a vein in your hand.
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  • Vacuum aspiration awake (local anaesthetic) up to 12 or 14 weeks - you will feel cramping similar to period pain. You are given pain relief tablets and a numbing injection to the neck of your womb (cervix).
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  • Vacuum aspiration with conscious sedation up to 12 or 14 weeks – you are relaxed and sleepy and will feel little or no pain.  You will be given a numbing injection to the neck of your womb
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  • Early medical abortion up to 10 weeks (70 days) - you will have strong cramping similar to period pains.  We can give you strong codeine and you can also take ibuprofen.
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  • Medical abortion over 10 weeks (70+ days) - gas and air and painkillers are given as needed for the contractions experienced during labour and delivery. Over 22 weeks gestation you will need feticide which involves mild discomfort during the injection to your tummy.

Does the fetus feel anything?

Current research shows that the senses of the fetus are not developed enough to feel pain before 28 weeks gestation.

Afterwards

How will I feel after the abortion?

Recovery after an uncomplicated abortion usually happens fairly quickly – click here for more information on your recovery. Most women feel relieved after treatment, but some may feel sad or guilty. Call 03457 304030 to make an appointment for post abortion counselling if you feel the need to talk. This is a free service for women who’ve had BPAS treatment.

How much bleeding is there?

Most women bleed for 1-2 weeks - use sanitary towels during this time. The bleeding is like a normal period (there may be some blood clots). There may be spotting until your next period. After surgical abortion, a few women will not experience bleeding until their next period.

If your bleeding soaks 2 or more sanitary towels per hour for 2 hours in a row, contact the clinic or Aftercare line on 03003336828 urgently for advice. If you can’t call, go to A&E.

Can I use tampons?

Use sanitary towels for 1 to 2 weeks after treatment.  Tampons can be used for your next menstrual period.

Will I need time off work?

Most women return to their normal routine in a day or 2. Rest until you can resume your usual activities.

How soon can I have sex?

Avoid sex for 1 week and remember you can get pregnant almost immediately following abortion.

What about travel after the treatment?

It’s best not to travel within 24 hours of treatment. If you must travel, make sure you know how to get emergency medical care if needed. If you choose to travel after taking the 2nd medication (misoprostol) of the abortion pill up to 9 or 10 weeks - you may have cramps and bleed heavily during travel.

If you have any other questions, please visit our Health Unlocked website.