What is an abortion?
An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy.
It's also sometimes known as a termination of pregnancy.
The pregnancy is ended either by taking medicines or having a surgical procedure.
What happens during an abortion
Before having an abortion, you'll have an appointment to talk about your decision and what happens next.
Whenever possible, you should be given a choice of how you would like the abortion to be carried out.
There are 2 options:
- Medical abortion ("abortion pill") – you take 2 medicines, usually 24 to 48 hours apart, to induce an abortion
- Surgical abortion – you have a procedure to remove the pregnancy and normally go home soon afterwards
After an abortion, you'll probably need to take things easy for a few days. It's likely you'll have some discomfort and vaginal bleeding for up to 2 weeks.
Risks of an abortion
Abortion is a safe procedure. Abortions are safest, and happen with less pain and bleeding, when carried out as early as possible in pregnancy.
Most will not experience any problems, but there is a small risk of complications, such as:
- infection of the womb (uterus)
- some of the pregnancy remaining in the womb
- excessive bleeding
- damage to the womb or entrance of the womb (cervix)
If complications do occur, you may need further treatment, including surgery.
Having an abortion will not affect your chances of becoming pregnant again and having normal pregnancies in the future. You may be able to get pregnant immediately after an abortion so need to start contraception as soon as possible.
When can an abortion can be carried out?
Most abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy.
They can be carried out after 24 weeks in very limited circumstances – for example, if the mother's life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.
Deciding to have an abortion
The decision to have an abortion is yours alone.
Some may be certain they want to have an abortion, while others may find it more difficult to make a decision.
Everyone requesting an abortion can discuss their options with, and receive support from, a trained pregnancy counsellor if they wish.
Where can I get more support and access counselling?
Abortion can bring up some difficult feelings, whether you’re deciding whether it’s the right option or you or you’ve had an abortion already. It’s okay to talk about your emotions around abortion and to need support. Abortion services offer counselling, where you can talk about your mental health in a non-judgemental and confidential environment.
How can I access an abortion?
Abortions can only be carried out under the care of an NHS hospital or a licensed clinic, and are usually available free of charge on the NHS.
There are two main abortion providers in the UK. Please follow these links for more information:
You can contact either of these providers to discuss your options around abortion.
After an abortion you will be offered ongoing contraception within the abortion service. In addition to this you can access contraception after an abortion at your GP or through our services - please see our contraception page for more information.