Abortion means ending an unwanted pregnancy, either through using medicines (drugs) or a surgical procedure. 

It is really important to make the right decision for you. Talking to your partner, family and friends can help, but they might have different views to you, so it's very important to talk to a doctor or nurse as well, either at your GP or at a local clinic. These people will help you decide what to do by providing information and support, but ultimately the final decision is yours.

Abortions are free on the NHS and you can be referred by your GP or a doctor from the sexual health clinic. Alternatively you can refer yourself for a private abortion. Please see the links below:

Marie Stopes




You can have either a medical or surgical abortion depending on your stage of pregnancy. The doctor will take you though all of this but you might like to read the following information so that you are prepared.

Medical Abortion (known as 'the abortion pill') - early abortion (up to 9 weeks)

A medical abortion can be performed in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. It does not involve any surgery. You will be given 2 appointments after the assessment. On the first appointment you will be given a tablet (mifepristone) to swallow.  The next appointment is 36 to 48 hours later, when a tablet is placed in the vagina. These two drugs end most early pregnancies within the following four hours.

You will feel cramping pains like having a heavy and rather painful period.

Late abortion - (9 -20 weeks)

You can take the same tablets as for an early abortion, but you will have to take higher doses and you may need to stay in hospital overnight as a lot of bleeding can occur.

Surgical abortion (known as 'the suction method')

This can be carried out early or late in pregnancy. Full details of the exact procedure will be explained by a doctor or nurse before the abortion goes ahead.

The abortion is carried out through the vagina. There is no wound and there are no stitches. Gentle suction is used to remove the pregnancy from the uterus (womb). This is a very quick and simple procedure, taking less than five minutes to perform. This can be done whilst you are awake (under local anaesthetic) or asleep (under general anaesthetic). You may be able to go home afterwards, but some women may need to stay in overnight.

You may experience some bleeding for a few days (maybe up to two weeks) after the abortion and may have pain similar to period pains.

But if you experience the following symptoms you should go back to the clinic or hospital as this could mean that you have an infection which needs treatment:

  • feeling unwell,
  • abdominal pain,
  • unusual vaginal discharge,
  • bleeding that does not stop, or
  • a raised temperature

Surgical dilatation and evacuation (D&E) abortion after 15 weeks

This method is carried out under general anaesthetic. The cervix is gently stretched and dilated to allow special forceps to remove the pregnancy. This takes 10–20 minutes. You may be able to return home on the same day if you are healthy and there are no complications.

What happens after an abortion?

After the abortion procedure, you may be given a follow up appointment to make sure that everything has gone to plan.

You may bleed for up to two weeks and, in some cases, the bleeding may continue right up until your next period.  You are advised not to have sexual intercourse for at least two weeks after having an abortion and only then if the bleeding has completely stopped.  This is to reduce the risk of infection.

Many women feel low and a bit shaken up after having an abortion. This is perfectly normal.

Having an abortion should not affect your ability to have a child in the future.  In fact, it is possible to become pregnant again the first time you have sex after an abortion, so it is a good idea to get contraception sorted out straight away if this isn't what you want.

More information

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