I consider access to safe pregnancy terminations to be an important part of every woman’s healthcare – and a necessary right. We’re fortunate living in Victoria where we have some of the country’s most liberal abortion laws.
When it comes to considering a pregnancy termination, most people believe that a surgical abortion is the only choice. However, it’s comforting to know that there’s another reliable option for women who are up to 63 days, or nine weeks, pregnant.
Known as a medical abortion or medical termination, this non-invasive method involves taking a course of tablets over two days.
Below, I’ve answered some common questions patients have asked:
- How are medical abortions performed?
- How do I prepare?
- Will I be in pain?
- What should I do after the procedure?
- Will an abortion affect my fertility?
- Where can I get a medical abortion?
If you’re in need, I hope this post helps give you some clarity and guidance.
How Are Medical Abortions Performed?
Medical abortions are carried out over three main stages.
STAGE 1 – INITIAL CONSULTATION AND PREGNANCY TEST
I’ll chat over your medical history and give you all the essential information. This info includes the steps involved in the procedure, as well as before- and after-abortion care.
I’ll then organise an ultrasound and blood tests to confirm your pregnancy particulars, get your consent to proceed and answer any questions.
STAGE 2 – PREGNANCY RESULTS AND PRESCRIPTION
Upon your return for a second appointment, together we’ll look at your test results which confirm your gestation period. If you’re up to nine weeks pregnant and decide to proceed, I’ll then give you a prescription for the medication.
You can fill the prescription at any pharmacy.
STAGE 3 – TAKING THE MEDICATION
You take one tablet containing mifepristone, followed by four tablets of misoprostol between 36 to 48 hours later.
Misoprostol softens your cervix to help your uterus expel the pregnancy.
You’ll experience a miscarriage in up to 24 hours. It’s a good idea to take it easy for a couple of days and have a friend or family member around for support.
Approximately two weeks later, I’ll follow-up with a third appointment. During this appointment, I’ll confirm you’re no longer pregnant and make sure you’re feeling OK.
How Do I Prepare?
A pregnancy termination can be quite daunting for many women. Being the case, I recommend weighing up your options and talking it over with someone you trust.
On the other hand, I’ve found some women take a pragmatic approach to abortions. Many view such procedures as part of the family planning journey.
There’s no right or wrong approach to this complex and personal health issue. Any caring doctor will respect your point of view.
Will I Be in Pain?
After taking the mifepristone tablet, you won’t necessarily be in pain but may feel a bit nauseous and notice some light bleeding.
As the second dosage of tablets containing misoprostol starts to take effect, you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Heavier bleeding for up to four hours.
- Moderate bleeding for up to seven days – similar to a normal period.
- Intermittent bleeding may continue for a month.
- Occasional vomiting
Once the abortion is finished, symptoms tend to subside after a few hours.
Most women find that over the counter pain relief, a hot water bottle and a few days rest at home works wonders.
What Should I Do After the Procedure?
It’s a great idea to take it easy on yourself in the days following the procedure. There’s a one percent chance of infection, which can be minimised by avoiding:
- swimming or taking baths;
- sexual intercourse;
- inserting tampons or anything else into your vagina; and
- exerting yourself with exercise, manual labour or heavy lifting.
An abortion can sometimes cause considerable emotional distress. Though most women are relieved after such a procedure, around 10% of patients suffer from negative thoughts or confusing feelings.
Rest assured, this is entirely normal and understandable.
If your mental health is getting the better of you, we’ll help you through or refer you to a mental health professional as needed.
Will an Abortion Affect My Fertility?
No. Medical and surgical abortions have no effect on your fertility or future reproductive health.
Pregnancy terminations are some of the most common and safest medical procedures conducted in Australia. In saying this, there’s a very slim chance that a surgical abortion can result in uterine cavity scarring, known as Asherman syndrome.
Following your next menstrual cycle, your body will no doubt bounce back and begin functioning normally.
Where Can I Get a Medical Abortion?
You can access a medical abortion through your doctor or any number of women’s health and sexual health clinics.
As is the case with myself, your GP must be certified to offer medical advice and prescribe the required medications.
Even if you’re unsure, I suggest getting in touch to discuss your options. You’ll be treated just like any other patient in a relaxed, non-judgemental environment.
Like More Information?
There are plenty of resources available to women seeking objective information and advice, including:
- your GP, gynaecologist, women’s health or sexual health professional;
- 1800myoptions – an excellent female-oriented sexual and reproductive health referral service from Women’s Health Victoria;
- The Australian Women’s Health Network;
- The Royal Women’s Hospital; and
- Family Planning Victoria.