SurgeryWise - directory of surgeons and health specialists, information, advice and more...
SurgeryWise home - surgeon directory, advice, information and more.....Surgeons and specialists near youInformation on surgery, procedures and healthRead about real patient's experiences of various proceduresHot topics - surgery and health issuesClick here to advertise with SurgeryWisecontact us
  You are at: Procedure info > Pregnancy > Termination

Termination of pregnancy / abortion
















Deciding to terminate a pregnancy is a major decision and often a very difficult step to take. It is important that you have discussed the decision carefully with someone you can trust, be it a partner, family member or friend.

Your GP should also be consulted, and will be able to give you advice and information on what is involved. The GP will also usually examine you, and can give you the available options based on how far pregnant you are.


When can abortion be performed?

In the UK, termination can legally be carried out up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, although many clinics and hospitals have guidelines of only 18-20 weeks. If you fall into this category, then two doctors still need to agree to the termination for it to proceed.

The specialist will examine your tummy to check how far pregnant you are, and may also perform a painless ultrasound scan to check.


How is termination performed?

There are various procedures, depending on how far your pregnancy has gone:

  • Up to 9 weeks - an abortion pill can be used, which involves taking two drugs, 48 hours apart from each other. These essentially cause the onset of delivery, with the womb contracting and shedding its lining, delivering its contents out through the vagina. This can be quite painful, and can cause severe abdominal cramps. Nausea and vomiting are also quite common side effects.

  • Up to 13 weeks - a procedure can be performed to remove the contents of the uterus through a suction tube. This may be under general anaesthetic, or occasionally under local anaesthesia.

  • Up to 19 weeks - a procedure is performed to dilate the opening of the uterus, allowing the contents to be removed with forceps.

  • Up to 24 weeks - either surgery or medicine can be used at this stage. The medical option is similar to that of the 9 week stage - two drugs are given to encourage the womb to contract and deliver its contents through the vagina. The surgical option involves two procedures, performed over two days.

Whilst it may seem obvious that termination becomes more complex as the pregnancy progresses, the decision should certainly not be rushed. You should be sure that this is the right decision for you before proceeding.


What risks are involved with abortion?

The commonest risks are:

  • Bleeding - it is quite normal to bleed slightly for a couple of days after the termination. You will have a period about 5-6 weeks later, which should be normal. If the period is heavier than normal, then the uterus may not be completely emptied and you should consult your doctor straight away.

  • Uterus injury - if a procedure is performed to empty the uterus, a tear in the wall of the uterus can rarely occur. This may require staying in hospital for a few days of observation.

  • PID - this stands for 'pelvic inflammatory disease'. If any tissue is left in the uterus, then an infection can occur. This may also occur after surgery. The infection may cause abdominal pain, fever, and an unpleasant smelling discharge from the vagina. It is important to contact your doctor as soon as possible, and antibiotics may be required. If any material is left in the uterus, then a procedure may be needed to remove this.

  • Infertility - infection after an abortion could potentially lead to infertility. The most common cause for this infection is 'chlamydia' - it is common for the specialist to check for chlamydia before an abortion is performed, and treat it if present.



Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is for guidance only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






Copyright © 2014 SurgeryWise Ltd