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How are abortions carried out?

There are two main early abortion methods:

Medical termination (known as 'the abortion pill')

Medical termination can be performed in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. It does not involve any surgery. The woman is given a pill (mifepristone) and 48 hours later, tablets (prostaglandin) are placed in her vagina. These two drugs end the pregnancy and the pregnancy is then miscarried. It feels like having a heavy and rather painful period.

Vacuum aspiration (known as 'the suction method')

This method is usually available up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. For this procedure the woman has either a general or local anaesthetic. The abortion is carried out through the vagina and there is no wound or stitches. The cervix (the entrance to the womb at the top of the vagina) is gently stretched to allow a tube to pass through it into the womb. Once the tube is inserted, it only takes a minute to remove the pregnancy by suction. Healthy women take only an hour or so to recover and most go home the same day.

Methods used for later abortions will depend on the stage of pregnancy. The exact procedure will be explained by a doctor or nurse before the abortion goes ahead.

Having an abortion should not affect a woman's ability to have a child in the future.