Abortion is legal in the UK up to the 24th week of pregnancy however; most hospitals and clinics will not consider termination beyond 18 to 20 weeks. For this reason, if a woman is considering termination, then she should discuss the situation with a doctor sooner rather than later. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that the earlier a termination is carried out the safer it is for the woman. Abortions in the UK are carried out in NHS hospitals and private clinics.
A difficult decision
There are many reasons why a woman may be considering having an abortion – for instance, because of your personal circumstances, because your health may be at risk, or there is a high probability that the baby will have a medical condition.
The law states that two doctors need to agree that the abortion can be carried out. They will reach this decision if they believe there is a greater risk to the woman’s physical or mental health if she continues with the pregnancy. The doctor can also take social circumstances into account when making this decision. The doctor will then carry out a pelvic examination to determine the length of the pregnancy.
There are two main early abortion methods:
Abortion pill: can be carried out within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. It does not involve any surgery. A pill is administered (mifepristone) and between 36-48 hours later a second pill (prostaglandin) is taken orally or placed in the vagina. These two drugs end most early pregnancies within the following four hours. It will then feel like having a heavy period.
Vacuum Aspiration or suction termination: can be carried out between 7 and 15 weeks of pregnancy and is a procedure which uses gentle suction to remove the foetus from the womb. The procedure takes between 5 and 10 minutes and can be carried out under local or general anaesthetic.
If you are considering an abortion, you are strongly advised to seek counselling beforehand. Studies show that women who have an abortion adjust better afterwards if they have had the chance to discuss their feelings and their decision beforehand.