The Surgical Abortion Procedure
A surgical abortion is a surgical procedure legally available up to 23 weeks + 6 days of pregnancy in England under the Abortion Act. It’s completed by one of our expert General Medical Council (GMC) registered doctors.
What is a surgical abortion?
Marie Stopes UK provides surgical abortion procedures according to how far the pregnancy has progressed:
- Surgical abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy
- Surgical abortion between 14 and 19 weeks of pregnancy
- Surgical abortion after 19 weeks of pregnancy
Surgical abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy
This is a really quick and safe procedure, taking less than 10 minutes to perform. A gentle suction method is used to remove the pregnancy vaginally. You can choose to have this procedure without anaesthetic (with analgesia only), sedation or general anaesthetic.
Our highly qualified team will care for you for the entirety of your appointment, which will be about 3 hours on average. You may be able to fly home on the same day as your procedure and return to work when you feel comfortable to do so. Most women take a few days off, but everyone is different, so listen to your body to see what’s right for you. A few days of minor low abdominal pain and mild vaginal bleeding can be expected. We recommend using painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if you’d like pain relief.
Depending on how many weeks pregnant you are, surgical abortion procedures and fees differ slightly.
Surgical abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy
This procedure is also really safe and quick but uses an instrument to remove the pregnancy vaginally. We will give you medication to prepare your cervix for the procedure – this will be given to you 2-3 hours before and you will be cared for in our centre by our team of friendly professionals. For the abortion procedure itself, you will be given the option of sedation or general anaesthetic.
After treatment, you will stay at our centre with our expert clinical team until you are well enough to go home – most women stay between 2 and 4 hours after the procedure.
Our dedicated team can help you arrange accommodation when you call to arrange your appointment if you like. You can return to work whenever you feel comfortable to do so. Most women return to work after a few days, but everyone is different, so listen to your body to see what’s right for you. A few days of minor low abdominal pain and mild vaginal bleeding can be expected. We recommend using painkillers such as Ibuprofen if you’d like pain relief.
Surgical abortion 19 to 23 weeks + 6 days of pregnancy
This procedure takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. You will need to be seen the day before the booked procedure. On the day please arrive at our centre early in the morning to prepare for the first stage procedure to take medication that will dilate the cervix over a few hours in preparation for the procedure.
After your cervix is prepared and you are ready for the procedure, you will return to the procedure room to be given a general anaesthetic. Once you are asleep under the general anaesthetic, one of our expert doctors will use an instrument to remove the fetus and any surrounding tissue vaginally.
Once the procedure has been completed, you will relax on one of our recliners with refreshments until our team of clinicians are happy with your recovery and you feel comfortable to leave. Most women are in our centre for up to 6 hours in total.
Most women return to work after a few days, but everyone is different, so listen to your body to see what’s right for you and when you feel able to return to work. Most women will experience a few days of minor abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding or spotting.
What will happen to the fetal tissue after a surgical abortion?
We respectfully manage the removal of the fetal tissue to ensure the abortion is carried out sensitively and safely.
If you don’t have any special requests, Marie Stopes UK will ensure that all fetal tissue is managed in a manner that is not only respectful and dignified but also in a way that assures compliance with all relevant UK legislation. Our expert doctors and nurses follow The Human Tissue Act (HTA) which has a clinical framework for the storage and disposal of fetal tissue.
If you’d like to take the fetal products to be kept, please discuss this during your consultation and when you book your appointment over the phone. Do not wait until the day of the procedure to ask about this.
If you wish to take the fetal remains on a plane/overseas, please be aware of the customs regulations which apply. Most airlines will require a death certificate and/or cremation certificate for the transport of human remains. It can be difficult to obtain the required paperwork when it is related to a termination of pregnancy. More information can be found here.
What should I wear on the day of my appointment?
For your own comfort, as well as for clinical reasons, we recommend you wear:
- Supportive underwear (a pair of knickers, not thongs)
- Loose trousers
- Loose sleeved upper garments (you’ll be asked to remove your lower garments for the procedure) – for surgical only
- A warm jumper
- Flat shoes
- No jewellery in or around the mouth or genitals, including piercings such as tongue ring or vaginal piercings
For a surgical appointment, we would prefer that you do not wear false nails or nail varnish. Please see our step by step guide to find out more information on preparing for your procedure.
What are the failure rates and risks of a surgical abortion?
Most women experience no complications however you might experience minor low abdominal pain and some mild vaginal discharge or bleeding after the procedure. You can find out how to manage this on our aftercare page.
The rate of major complications from surgical abortion has declined dramatically and is now about 1 in 1000 abortions.
Rare Complications of surgical abortion include:
- Complications relating to anaesthetic: These are rare, and would be discussed with you by the anaesthetist on the day of your termination
- Injury inside the body: Perforation of the uterus (womb): Uncommon (less than 5 in 1,000 people) and cervical damage: rare (less than 1 in 1,000 people)
- Haemorrhage: Blood loss requiring transfusion happens in approximately 1-2 in 1,000 people (uncommon). This risk of haemorrhage increases to 4 in 1000 after 20 weeks
- Infection: Following abortion, less than 1 in 100 people (uncommon) will develop an infection. At Marie Stopes UK, we reduce your risk of infection by giving you antibiotics at the time of your termination.
- Retained pregnancy tissue: This happens to less than 5 in 100 people (common)
- Treatment failure (continuing pregnancy): All abortions carry a small risk of failure, which may require a further procedure. This risk is approximately 2 in 1000 people (rare) for surgical abortion.
- Rhesus isoimmunisation: Women with a certain blood group (rhesus negative) are at risk of isoimmunisation after induced abortion. At Marie Stopes UK, we administer Anti-D to all women who are rhesus negative whether they have a medical or surgical abortion. This is intended to prevent problems for future pregnancies
- Thrombosis (clots in the legs or lungs): This is a risk during all pregnancies and surgeries. The risk increases with a higher gestation. Our procedure does not increase the risk, but a history of blood clotting will mean Marie Stopes cannot undertake your procedure
While it's important to know about complications, they are rare. Although if you are ever concerned please call our free phone numbers for 24-hour advice:
0345 300 3737 (Northern Ireland)
or 1800 200 374 (Republic of Ireland)
Can a surgical abortion effect future reproduction?
It's unlikely that having an abortion will have any effect on your fertility - most women go on to have a normal pregnancy. Although there's some evidence that repeated surgical abortions are linked with a slight increased risk of miscarriage.
Do I need to be accompanied?
We strongly recommend you are accompanied to and from your appointment by a responsible adult. They may be able to stay with you in the waiting area but cannot come into consultation, treatment or recovery areas.
Why choose Marie Stopes UK?
Marie Stopes UK is a trusted abortion service provider by women. We have supported Irish women travelling to England for safe and legal abortion services for over 40 years. We will take a full medical history and tests (if needed) to ensure your safety. If you have serious medical issues, we may suggest it's safest to have your abortion in a hospital setting. If complications occur then you will be transferred to the nearest NHS hospital for further care.
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