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Abortion in the UK – How is the first trimester of pregnancy terminated?

Abortion In The UK – How Is The First Trimester Of Pregnancy Terminated?

Are you facing an unplanned pregnancy and don’t feel ready to be a mother? Everyone’s circumstances are different but the decision to end a pregnancy is yours alone and almost never taken lightly. If you are considering a pregnancy termination, you will need to know about abortion in the UK, what your options are and how best to decide what to do. For first trimester terminations there are a number of options. Read on and we’ll guide you through them.

First trimester abortion in the UK: surgical or medical pregnancy termination

In the first trimester, abortion in the UK can be performed in two main ways:

  1. Surgical abortion – This procedure can be performed with local anaesthesia or under sedation. The pregnancy is terminated with the aid of a suction device placed through the cervix into the womb entrance. The gentlest way to do this is via Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) as we do here at The Gynae Centre. MVA can be performed between 6-15 weeks. Another method is Machine Aspiration (MA), which is employed in many hospitals – it uses stronger vacuum pressure, leading to greater discomfort.
  2. Medical abortion – This is when a pregnancy is ended via hormone medicines. There are two pills taken at different times, which induce miscarriage. The first medicine (named mifepristone) obstructs the vital pregnancy hormone progesterone. This prevents the pregnancy from developing and causes it to come away from the uterus’ wall. The second pill (misoprostol) prompts contractions of the uterus, which expel the pregnancy naturally without surgery.

Surgical abortion or medical abortion pills – which should I choose?

To some extent, your method of pregnancy termination can depend on your personal preferences but there are factors to consider which we’ve laid out below:

Why surgical abortion?

If your pregnancy is further along than 10 weeks, surgical abortion is recommended. Technically it is possible to have medical abortion pills in the UK in hospital later than 10 weeks, but it will be more painful further along in the pregnancy and we do not advise it. Surgical abortion in the UK can be performed up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy. MVA, the gentler method of surgical abortion can be performed up to 15 weeks of pregnancy (after that time, you would need to undergo Machine Aspiration, which uses a stronger vacuum pressure and creates greater discomfort).

Here at The Gynae Centre, we can perform MVA surgical abortion in our clinic for pregnancies of 6-15 weeks. Where possible, we can offer same day appointments. You will be assessed and treated by one of our Consultant Gynaecologists. You can opt for local anaesthetic or if you prefer to be asleep, we can administer sedation. The procedure is conducted compassionately and discreetly, and you can expect it to take between 10 and 30 minutes, followed by rest and observation usually for up to an hour. You should rest after a surgical abortion and can expect to experience some cramping and bleeding which can be addressed with sanitary pads and mild painkillers like paracetamol. Most patients are able to resume their activities within 3 days.

A minority of women might opt for surgical abortion in early pregnancy because there is less bleeding than with medical abortion and the procedure has a slightly lower risk of the need for a repeat procedure to complete the process. But most women in early pregnancy opt for medical abortion pills in the UK (see below).

Why medical abortion pills?

Most women up to 10 weeks pregnant seeking abortion in the UK opt for this method because it avoids the need for anaesthesia and surgery, and it is non-invasive. You can also create your own resting environment at home to facilitate the process. As detailed above, you will take two pills at two different times. After the first pill, many women will notice no symptoms at all, but 30 minutes to a few hours after taking the second pill, the miscarriage will start. You should aim to be comfortably resting at home at this point. You will experience bleeding when the pregnancy passes and pain that is usually stronger than a heavy period (this can be controlled with painkillers and a hot water bottle). About 1 in 10 women have some nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. You will experience some cramping and bleeding for a few days following the second pill, but it should taper off as the days pass. You can usually return to your regular activities as soon as you feel ready to.

Abortion in the UK is most frequently performed via medication abortion pill – in fact in 2021 87% of all terminations in England and Wales took place this way. Many women opt for it in the first trimester because it is non-invasive.

Here at The Gynae Centre, our medical abortion packages are fully comprehensive, including scans, blood tests and assessment with expert Consultant Gynaecologists as well as aftercare that includes a 24-hour support line in the weeks following, should you experience any concerns whatsoever.

In addition, recent changes to the law on abortion in the UK allow for abortion pills by post, should getting to the clinic be a problem for you. How does it work? Let’s break it down.

Medical abortion pills by post

Abortion pills in the UK can now be accessed via the post, following recent changes to the law. However, it is vitally important that abortion pills by post are accessed only following proper medical assessment and with access to safe aftercare. It is essential that you seek proper medical care and avoid dangerous online shortcuts.

Dr Albert Aka, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre says: “Abortion pills by post are safe via established clinics. You need a proper pre-assessment with a medical professional. Never try to access abortion pills via some random website with a little online form. It just isn’t worth it.”

Here at The Gynae Centre, if you opt for abortion pills by post, you will receive a thorough medical assessment with a Consultant Gynaecologist (not a nurse) – either via telephone or video call. Your medical history will be carefully taken to ensure there are no contraindications. All your questions will be answered, ensuring you know exactly what to do and what to expect. The medications will then arrive in the mail. Our aftercare is caring and conscientious, and you will have access to a 24-hour telephone support line following your abortion, should you have any questions or concerns.

The Gynae Centre is one of the UK’s leading women’s health clinics with gynaecologists at the top of their field. Through decades of experience, we do everything we can to make this process as smooth as possible. To find out how we can help, call us on 020 7580 8090 or book online.