The decision to end a pregnancy is often not an easy one, and in addition you’ll usually need to decide whether to opt for medical abortion or surgical abortion too. Increasingly, women are opting for termination via abortion pills (medical abortion). In 2021 this method accounted for 87% of all terminations in England and Wales (186,936 medical abortions). But what is the process like and are abortion pills safe? Let’s take a look.
First things first: what are abortion pills and how do they work?
In medical termination of a pregnancy, there are two different abortion pills taken at separate times. The first medicine (named mifepristone) obstructs the vital pregnancy hormone progesterone. This stops the pregnancy from developing and causes it to break away from the uterus wall. The second pill (misoprostol) prompts the womb to contract, leading to natural miscarriage without the need for surgery. It can be likened to an early spontaneous miscarriage, with the crucial difference being that with medical abortion, a woman is ready and able to prepare a comfortable environment to rest in at home through the process.
Are abortion pills safe?
How safe is the abortion pill? Abortion is generally a very safe process with scant associated risks and side effects. Dr Albert Aka, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre says: “There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that an uncomplicated abortion affects your fertility in the future, or health in general.”
Of course, every medical procedure – without exception – comes with some risk of side effects and complications. With the abortion pills, you will probably experience some pain when you pass the pregnancy, and this is often said to be worse than a heavy period. You should take mild painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol for this. About 1 in 10 women experience some nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. For a few days afterwards, you will probably have some period-like cramps which should taper off as the days go by – hot water bottles and mild painkillers should ease these.
With abortion pills as with surgical abortion, there is a very slight risk of needing another procedure to finish the process. Apart from this, rare risks include pelvic infection or infection in the womb, haemorrhage or missed ectopic pregnancy.
As the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists point out, as long as it is provided according to best practice, an abortion (either medical or surgical) is statistically safer than continuing through pregnancy and labour. And because medical abortion is non-invasive and has no need for anaesthetic, most clinicians and patients prefer it for termination of an early pregnancy. The crucial thing is to put yourself in good hands, which means proper medical consultation beforehand and conscientious aftercare afterwards.
Here at The Gynae Centre abortion pills are only provided after a proper assessment including full medical history with a Consultant Gynaecologist (not a nurse). Through the process, aftercare advice is on hand 24/7 for four weeks post-abortion, to ensure you are safe and reassured. If you opt for in-person attendance at the clinic, you will have an ultrasound-scan, haemoglobin check and screening for chlamydia. Many other women opt for abortion pills by post in which we conduct thorough pre-screening via telephone appointment (see below).
Are abortion pills safe via the post?
With medical abortion pills by post, a woman receives the medications via the mail and takes them at home at the appropriate intervals.
In March 2022, the UK government voted to allow the use of both abortion pills at home for early medical abortion in England and Wales, without the requirement to first visit a clinic or hospital. This had been temporarily legalised in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Parliament made it permanent in 2022. This method of early medical abortion (up to 10 weeks) is increasingly opted for, making up 52% of all abortions in 2021. But are abortion pills safe via the post?
“It depends upon how you access abortion pills and the supporting medical care surrounding them,” says Dr Aka. “Really, when women ask me if abortion pills are safe, I say yes but with the condition that you don’t access them via some random website asking you to fill in an online form. Never do the quick-click pill thing – it just isn’t worth it.”
For abortion pills by post, proper medical consultation and screening needs to be conducted person to person over the phone. In this way, answers can be followed up and the patient herself can ask questions. You also need a good aftercare safety net – someone available at all times following the process, to answer questions and monitor any symptoms. That’s the way to be safe and reassured.
Here at The Gynae Centre, patient safety and wellbeing is paramount to us. Our clinicians are at the top of their field and all patients requiring abortion pills by post will have a thorough consultation via phone with one of our compassionate Consultant Gynaecologists (not a nurse).
Your consultant will go over your medical history and carefully prepare for your medical abortion so you know exactly what to do and when. The medicines will then arrive in the post. Our aftercare is second to none, including a 24-hour telephone support line for up to four weeks following your medical abortion, for any queries or concerns whatsoever.
Through our extensive expertise in helping women through this process, we do everything we can to make the experience as smooth as possible. To find out how we can help, call us on 020 7580 8090 or book online.